Saturday, October 23, 2010

A metaphor, a parable or an omen?

Dorm living with an Arabic flair!
Our living room furniture created a bit of a dilemma for us. It's got a funky style to it and is very comfortable. Initially, it was our intention to break up the set between our bedroom and the kids' rooms; unfortunately, furniture was too big and unwieldily to be maneuvered down the hallway, so we had to make it our living room furniture. One of Julie's conditions for coming down here was here refusal to go back to living like a college student. It didn't make sense to here to come all this way just so that we could do without (we could have done without quite easily without having to leave the comfort of our native lands, thank you very much). The threadbare, marker stained coverings of the furniture featured so prominently in our apartment gave one the impression of walking into a rather spacious college dorm (the 32" flat screen sitting on a dated, and beat-up hutch only heightened the college effect). Rather than constantly making excuses for our furniture, we decided to get the stuff reupholstered. 

With the help of some friends, we were able to find the fabric souk (a souk is a shopping district that focuses on a specific product--there is a gold souk, a carpet souk, and even a fish souk). Julie found a fabric she liked, and, with great effort (English was not this guy's strong suit) we were able to negotiate a price that everyone seemed happy with. It wasn't until after we left the shop that we realized we had no idea when he was coming to get the furniture. A couple of nights later, we got a call for directions and they showed up at our apartment at around 9:00 and emptied our living room. We watched our furniture go with some trepidation, not really knowing what we would be getting in return or when we would be getting it (but hey, that's all part of the adventure, right?)
The next night, there was a knock on our door and there sitting in apartment corridor was our furniture. I couldn't believe how quickly they did it. And the workmanship was, to my layman's eyes, quite good. But despite being impressed by the quality and speed with which the work was done, my wife was a little crestfallen. You see, they got fabric right, it was the side of the fabric that caused some confusion. Instead of a subdued green, we've got gold. It was an honest enough mistake. I mean if you've got a choice between green and gold, who's going to choose green. It's all about the bling in Abu Dhabi.
Neither Julie nor I had the heart to criticize the work. These guys had gone above and beyond. Not only had the done a great job on the furniture, but they successfully navigated the chaos of of parking lot two nights in a row. In the end, it was just another one of the lessons learned about the importance of crystal clear communication. We're just glad we haven't ordered the living room curtains yet. 
This is what Julie wanted. 

This is what we got. It 's definitely growing on us.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The real reason you came to the blog

My last post was a rant. I acknowledge that. People don't come here for my woes, the people who come, what few of you there are, come to be distracted by our adventures and by pictures of beautiful people doing exciting things. So I present to you pictures of beautiful people doing exciting things. You will notice the conspicuous absence of myself from these pictures--this has less to do with my lack of beauty and more to do with the lack of exciting things I get to do. It seems that most of the excitement takes place while I'm at work. I do get to help out with the shopping though, and I guess there is a certain excitement to canned goods and produce.

Julie and kids at, and I'm not kidding, Shangri-La.

Liam and Lucy at the Beat Beethoven family race.

Some pics from the water park a couple of blocks from our apartment.

Yes, this is a gold ATM.

The zoo in Al Ain.

I'm not sure who won this staring contest.

I think this is the penguin that was stalking Lucy, but she didn't seem to mind.

There are anchors to our old life and then their are the millstones...

There are some connections to our old life that we know will never end, friends and family endure regardless of proximity. On the other hand, there are a few things anchoring us to Nova Scotia that we are anxious to be shod of. Dad sold the van last week which was a great relief. My only regret was that I didn't get a chance to see it after my father detailed the heck out of it. I can only imagine how it must have shone. If anyone could have restored that new car smell to our 2005 Montana it would be my father.

The big weight is of course the house. The nice thing is that we don't have a mortgage payment here, but after nearly six months on the market I'm starting to play that second guessing game. Maybe we asked for too much, or maybe we should have painted the living room a deep fuchsia instead of the safe taupe we went with. Well the taupe is still covering the walls but the price is more than aggressive and we're still getting little movement on the property. What's difficult for me to understand is how other people can't immediately see the value and the beauty of our home. Perhaps my perception is too coloured by all of positive memories I have from living there. It was a great home for our family. The proximity to amenities, church, and family was a blessing. We couldn't have gotten better neighbours if we had picked them out of a catalog. And never would I have believed I'd ever live in a home with a view of a temple (or at least Moroni on the temple spire). I so want to drape a banner across the front proclaiming, "Trust me, this is an awesome place to live!" Maybe I should make the suggestion to my real estate agent. At this point it couldn't hurt. Would balloons and a big bouncy house in the front yard be too much?

Found the piece below as I was cleaning out my iPad. Obviously, it was meant to go up earlier than this, but it provides some nice insights into my state of mind in the run up to our departure.

The closer I get my house to where I want it to be, the more I loathe the place. My daily mutterings go something like this, "Wow, that new carpet really makes a difference downstairs. Why did we wait until we were moving out put that in? Man, I really hate this house."

I've recently learned that thing thing that procrastination robs you of is the ability to savour the satisfaction of completion. When you're constantly just finishing things before the deadline, you never really have the time to step back from your accomplishment and enjoy the fact that it's done. The work we've been doing on the house to get it ready to sell really drives this point home. Over the last six weeks we've repainted practically every room in the house, addressed all those nagging issues like trim and living room curtains, and, with the help of my father, transformed the desolate wasteland that was my front yard into a verdant field of lush greenness. Before my very eyes, my house is being transformed into the very place that I've always wanted to live--just in time for me to leave it all behind. You can understand how the whole process might engender certain feelings of resentment and frustration. In addition to the feelings of conflicted satisfaction, is the frustration of feeling like you're never finished. Every little improvement we seem to make only draws more attention to the other, less pristine areas of our abode. The work never seems to end. It's like my house is giving me a glimpse into eternity, but not in a good way.

It's not that we're approaching the end of our labours. Rather, we're approaching the end of my willingness to labour. The house looks better than it ever did. It's not perfect, but I have to say that perfection is rarely worth the cost. And I'm really at that point where I'd like to remind my children that they do indeed have a father. I think it we be better for all of us if we were to make our journey to the middle east as friends instead of strangers. Before the chaos of these last few weeks I remember liking my children and I remember that their feelings towards me were generally positive. Let's see if we can get that back.

I do think that I'm starting to get my family back. It's a big apartment we're living in, but not so big that we don't know exactly where everyone is at any given moment. You might even be tempted to call our new existence cozy were it not for all the marble and concrete.

P.S. The other day my son said to me after reading a couple of my entries, "Dad, you're doing a good job on the blog." It made me feel pretty good to get the feedback. So much of the time I feel like I'm writing for just myself, because I have no idea who's reading my musings and reflections. So don't be shy about leaving a comment to tell me what you think, and if you've got any questions about life on this side of the world, I'll do my best to respond with something witty, clever and mostly true.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I just want one day without a new experience

This is the thing about grand adventure--it's exhausting. I need a haircut, but I've been putting off a haircut because a haircut represents one more decision I have to make and, potentially, a entirely new kind of experience. It's not problem of finding a place, there are literally a dozen places to get a haircut within stone's throw of our apartment, in fact there are probably too many places to choose from. It's just that the decision to have a haircut opens up the potential for one more new experience, and when everything from finding out where the baking soda's kept and what it looks like to calling tech support when the Internet goes down is a new experience, you sometimes want to have a day where you can bask in the comfort of familiarity, but familiarity is not what we signed up for, and hair needs to be cut even if you're not sure whether the Egyptian barbers or the Indian barbers are going to give you the better haircutting experience.

Update: Well, I should be careful what I wish for. We went to McDonalds for James' birthday today. As far as experiences go, from the service to the mounds of tasteless calories, it was utterly and completely typical. At the end of the meal, my family was informed that we would never be repeating that experience again.

Update 2: Sunday night, Liam and I ventured out for a haircut. We decided on the Pakistani barbershop. The barbers that worked on us understood the meaning of the word 'short' and I thought that was pretty sufficient. Not much chitchat, but a pretty normal experience until the head/eyebrow massage at the end, and as far as new experiences go, it wasn't entirely unpleasant.