My Farewell Tour

Years ago, sitting in class, didn't you wonder why you had to learn where Mesopotamia was? Why learn about the places so far away? What was the point of knowing about some huge desert in a place it was unlikely I would ever visit. Well, now I know why. One never knows in life what sort of interesting things will come about. And my life has certainly been interesting. But, now it's time to learn about another part of the world and depart from my safe haven of New Hampshire and head out to parts unknown in a place called Abu Dhabi.
I am calling this part of my journey, before I leave, my "Farewell Tour" because haven't you ever noticed that when a cool rock band is going to change members or break up, they have a Farewell Tour that lasts about a year? Well, I began my "Farewell Tour" at the Thanksgiving dinner table last November as I sat and looked around at my family, my cousins, aunts and uncles and I asked my mother what she would think if I decided to teach overseas. My mother responded favorably and I thought, well, then, this is it. This could be my last Thanksgiving dinner with the family in New England, for a couple of years. I mentally looked around at the family as if to impress their faces and that moment on my mind. At that point, my mother was the only one who knew that I was planning such a crazy, wild journey of my heart. I applaud her for being open to such an idea. Now that I am further along in my journey, she is still so very supportive. What more can one ask from her parents?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Of Grass Roots and Grass Routes

New Hampshire is in the midst of another political season...which is the season that occurs right after Pot Hole season. Yes, that really is a season, here. It is marked by cars falling into house-sized craters and amazing road crew members, like Bill Goss, Bill Dumais, and Ernie Butler filling those holes back in with something called "Hot Mix" which is different from what you play on your I-Pod. Yet, I digress. New Hampshire's political season is marked with what are known as "Grass Roots" campaigns; the attempt by several aspiring intelligent (or not) people coming into our state to throw their hat into the ring.
I am launching my own "Grass Roots" campaign...that of going overseas to Abu Dhabi, to teach Emirati students to speak and write English well enough to get into a good college and compete for amazing jobs. I would like to call my journey a Grass Skirt campaign, because I've never been to Hawaii and always wanted to wear a grass skirt and dance the Hula at a luau...yet I digress...It's true, I can't refer to this as my Grass Skirt campaign because doing so would violate the morality laws of the Arabic culture I plan to join. Abu Dhabi is an amazing place, which you would know if it were as popular a destination as Hawaii. Most people ask two questions of me when I tell them where I am going..."Is it safe?" and "Where will you live?"   Thank goodness I have good answers ready for them: Yes, it's very safe, and I have no idea where I will live, that is part of the mystery and adventure. But I do get a generous housing allowance as part of my salary and I will be able to find an amazing apartment or villa in the city. 
The culture is lenient toward Westerners (Me) because Abu Dhabi relies on a large influx of ex-pats to work in the country--doing everything from building construction, teaching, healing, cleaning to working at the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Race track and at Ferrari World (Who says this can't be a "destination retreat?) However, there are some rules about what Westerners and other ex-pats can and can't do. Walking around in a bathing suit or other scanty clothing is forbidden; they actually prefer that your collarbone and your elbows are covered. Skirts should go below the knee. Although I don't have to wear a burqa, as I am not a Muslim, or a Hijab (head covering) there are certain articles of clothing I will purchase or bring with me to wear. As a fairly modest woman, I don't think I will have problems with this particular rule. I am also packing my bathing suits and shorts, as I know there will be opportunities to wear those around my own home. Due to the strict rulings about clothing, I will not have to look at any more sagging, bagging pants on young men, in fact most young men will wear a long, white garment known as a dishdasha or kurta over cotton pants and shirt. Because this is a country that prides itself on modesty, the smart ex-pat will be respectful of these rules. The other important rule to remember is that of separate spaces for men and women. Women do not visit men in their apartments or homes, and vice versa. All visiting is done in public places with other folks present. Since I will be part of a teaching community of other ex-pats, I am sure they already participate in group activities and events and am looking forward to joining them.
Westerners do go out, and there are wonderful restaurants, theater, concerts and other events to attend. That's another thing I am looking forward to. Living in NH, one is isolated from the large city performances. Although I go frequently to the theater in Concord, NH and the New London Players, it has been a long time since I have seen a big-name concert. 
Those are just some of the random thoughts I have this morning as I pack up my house, and think about the new life ahead. I began by thinking about how this journey is a bit of a Grass Roots experience for me...I'm leaving my own grass roots and moving to a location that will bring new experiences, new knowledge and new friends. I will not be forgetting my own roots, though, we will keep in touch. We will just be going down a different Grass Route.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


The process of saying "Goodbye" began, for me, last November. I knew I wanted to go overseas, so I was sort of trying on the idea of how it felt to be my last Thanksgiving, my last Christmas season (as I will probably be home for the actual holiday) my last Easter, my last visit with friends. Pretty soon, I will be getting down to my last trip to the store, my last sleep in my own bed, with my own pillow, my last morning looking at my face in the mirror. But with about 5-7 weeks left, I am still in the process of saying goodbye to people. Today I had an amazing visit with some of my oldest friends from New Britain, Ct. I attended New Britain High School with these folks and some of them go all the way back to Slade Jr. High School and at least two (Bill F and Kim D) go all the way to third grade at Vance Elementary school. 
There is something very comforting about having people in my life who go back so far; we share the common memories of square dancing, Mrs. Olson, and Religion classes. We share learning about the assassination of JFK in 3rd grade, we share common understanding of who the neighborhood toughs were, and what the neighborhood secrets were. 
By the time we made it through elementary school, we got up to the confusing experience of Junior High, now known as Middle School. By Junior High school, the stories about the teachers were legend...the teachers who could pick a student up by the front of a shirt, who used a cattle prod to shock students, Mr. Hogan, and the scary science teacher who was also a part time police officer. I'm pretty sure he thought each one of us was a criminal in the making. Such is the stuff of middle school memories. 
By high school, I was finding my friends and making inroads into who I wanted to be. Most of that ended on Dec 31, 1972 when I moved with my family from New Britain to Jackson NH. There was a gap left where my friends were. A gap that I have tried to fill since then. The goodbye process helped me out today as I met with some of those wonderful friends from high school that I had known way back then. Most of them I hadn't seen since 1972. The reunion was a wonderful picnic with about 35 folks from the good old days. Granted, some didn't remember me, and some I didn't know at that time, and they didn't know me. But that's the good thing about reunions. We are all adults, now, the cliques are gone and we all can meet each other on an equal footing. The stories went around. The memories were poignant and the day was truly a day in which friendships were rekindled. 
I thank my life-long friends Deb P and Carole N for going with me.