The Things We Take For Granted

"I've been in Oman for two years, Ma'am.  After three years I'll get to go home"

"And where's home?"  I ask

"Nepal.  I'm going to get married"

"That's wonderful.  Is it someone you know?"

"Yes Ma'am, I met him in school.  It is good.  How long have you been married?"

"Eight years" I tell her.  I steel my self for the next question which is always and inevitably why don't you have kids? 

But instead, this woman asks me with wide eyes "Is it a love marriage?"

"Well, yes"

"Oh, of course.  That's nice. It's nice when you know them"  she smiles back at me.


Like a Rocket to the Moon

Dubai on a rare cloudy day
Max followed me to Dubai for some library training in November. That's right, we take turns wearing the pants in this house. I didn't know what to expect and it turned out to be one of the most conflicting travel experiences I've had to date.  I was both amazed and distraught, over and underwhelmed.  

I will say this - when we got in the crowded elevator at the base of the Burj Khalifa, tallest building in the world, and the elevator ascended 124 floors to the observation deck and the lights inside the elevator blinked faster and faster and the music grew more frantic and my ears popped as we climbed higher, a bit of panic crept into my chest.  I imagined us shooting up through the top of the needle tipped structure and bursting out into the clouds - Wonkavator style.  Or a real life rocket to the moon.     

Burj Khalifa: Tallest Building in the World - 163 floors
The outer observation deck.  Clouds people - that's how high up we were

View from the inner observation area
Diver Fountain - one of many attractions inside the Dubai Mall, largest mall in the world. 
I know, yet another superlative. 
 These ships are loaded with all kinds of goods - baby play pens, tires, washing machines - bound for Iran. 
Water Taxi across the Dubai Creek. 
Water Taxi Station


From the Journal


Today Max and I swam in the Bandar Jissah lagoon and in the afternoon, when the tide sucked back into the sea and left a shallow shelf of water I dropped my book on the chair and wandered into the warm ocean.  I lay down, face to the sky, feet to the open water and let the waves roll up and down my body.  Why I did this I am not sure.  It just felt like the right thing to do.  When I finally arose and walked back to my chair, Max told me he was seconds away from coming to see if I was still alive.

It was only when I got home that I thought of the section in Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert  by environmentalist and nature writer Terry Tempest Williams in which she climbs into a tree and spends the morning within its branches.  Trying to somehow bridge the voyeristic relationship we have with nature - we look at it, photograph it, draw it but we don't participate in something with it, two willing partners.  I often feel out of my depth in nature.  I am drawn to it and want to be in it, but I feel unequal to its realities in natural skills and general biological knowledge.  I'm growing that knowledge, but it's slow.

I certainly didn't grow up around the sea - Utah being hundreds miles from the nearest ocean and the Great Salt Lake a body of water I have only visited twice, to my great shame.  But each morning when Max gets up for work I think I'll ask him to drive himself so I can keep sleeping, but then I think of running along the beach behind the embassy with Buckley and I sit up with a grumble.  I can't stay away and without exception when I get to the beach I regret not having brought something more suitable for swimming.  I console myself by watching the dog chase seagulls into the water as far as he dares or sniff through banks of shells.


Last night we met the Afghany Ambassador to Oman at a publishing event.  When the discussion turned to Arabic and Max said  "You have to really feel it in your mouth" The Ambassador interrupted, flicking ash from his cigarette.  "No, you have to feel it in your belly" he said with a slight smile.


Today I found myself in front of a grocery store in what I've come to call "Little Pakistan" after returning a friend to her home.  I waded through throngs of men dressed in white or light blue shalwar kameez' with my strawberry hair.  As I rounded the vegetable isle I saw a booth with a sign that read "coconut carving" trailing a line of people holding coconuts.  What  else could I do but pick up a coconut and stand in line?  As I got closer to the square opening in the box I saw husky coconuts go in and bags of milky white shavings come out.  I caught the eye of a woman holding a baby standing next to her husband in front of me.

"What do you do with it?" I said, pointing to the sack in someone's hand.

They both burst into good hearted laughter.

"We were just talking about that and wondering what you were going to do with it!"

Or, in other words  What is this American in those white jeans doing with this coconut in this line in this neighborhood?  

"You use it with vegetables or salads" they tell me and answer follow up questions about curry leaves as well.  "You can use the internet too" the husband tells me, noticing I will need much more help than their brief explanation.  But he is not unkind when faced with the gulf of things I don't know.