Wednesday, October 14, 2009

30 years old and 2 months in

I turned 30 yesterday. I woke up early, made coffee and sat by the kitchen window to write in my journal. This is a ritual that has not changed in 10 years, though just about everything else has changed, drastically - my circumstances and environment, way of thinking, and life goals. Since turning 21 I have graduated from college, gotten married, moved out of Texas, found a career, earned a master’s degree, and moved overseas to work in my field. Looking back, I feel satisfied and looking forward, hopeful. And living in a country where the majority are migrant workers just trying to survive, I have come to recognize that such feelings are not as widely experienced as I might have thought. I am especially grateful for the hope I have that things can and will change for the better, a kind of freedom that I can take with me no matter where I go.

We’ve been in Abu Dhabi two months now, and somewhere along the way it stopped feeling like we were on an extended vacation. At the same time that we were finally able to recognize landmarks and street names and know where to find the best produce or where not to buy screws, the inconveniences that we once found quirky began to lose their charm and become unbearably annoying – and the realization that we live here started sinking in. This evolution has been bumpy, largely due to the fact that many details of our existence have remained as unsettled as when we arrived: our shipment from the US was MIA; Sam didn’t have a job; we didn’t have a car; I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to be doing at work; we hadn’t decided on a church; we didn’t have any regularly scheduled events during the week. Taken individually, it’s not so hard to deal with these gaps and uncertainties, but collectively the absences were felt more intensely and seemed interminable. I was having a hard time remembering why we had left our comfortable lives in Cambridge of our own free will. What I was experiencing was (and is) textbook culture shock – the stages, apparently, are exhilaration, irritation, depression and acceptance – and I knew I just had to wait it out.

And suddenly, in the past week even, things have begun to fall in place. Sam was hired as an adjunct faculty at a local university to teach two courses a week; he joined a soccer league and a basketball league and now has two games a week; we leased a car; we decided on a church and will go to a fellowship event tomorrow night; I joined a monthly book club and found a weekly Pilates class; Sam enrolled in Arabic courses three times a week and is already reading street signs; I’m starting to figure out my job description – both what it should entail and how to go about doing it; and miracle of miracles, we got a call yesterday that our belongings arrived in port and will be delivered in the next week or two. These small victories are accumulating, and though it hasn’t happened yet, I anticipate waking up one day in the not-so-distant future, or perhaps while walking to the supermarket after work, and coming to a vague awareness that Abu Dhabi has become home.


  1. Hang in there! I find that God and His Word speak to me in new ways when I try new things. Of course, it'll never be as good as it was in Cambridge! :-)

  2. I am glad to read that things are falling into place! It will click one day when you least expect it that Abu Dhabi has become home. It took me a while to call Chicago home, but now can't think of ever calling another city home.

  3. I could visualize you writing in your journal as I read your entry. If I had been home instead of dashing to and fro all day, I would have been far more nostalgic about your arrival 30 years ago, but I did miss you terribly all day. I hope you saw my birthday greeting on Facebook.

    I really enjoyed your evolving account of adaptation so far.

    So tell us about your new-found church! That should really help your sense of belonging, or at least adapting more readily, especially once your goods arrive. It will be like Christmas!!

    Speaking of Christmas, will you be able to celebrate with other Christians, or do you have to limit that to a private celebration in your apartment?

    Love you so much, Shannon, our serendipity girl! So grateful God knew we - I - needed you to be part of our family!!!

  4. That's great, Houston. Happy b-day. Congrats to Sam on the job.

  5. This is a great post! And happy late birthday.

  6. I'm so glad to hear all these things. I must admit that I'm somewhat jealous, although I know that Allison and I will have our turn (if God wills). Congrats, Sam! Very glad you're teaching...