December 19, 2011

Sneaking Away for an Afternoon

It's not so hard to get out of the bad Abu Dhabi and over to the good Abu Dhabi. It just takes a little initiative and some effort.
For the lazy among us, sometimes that's easier said than done.
I had an unusual weekday off today, and decided to take advantage of the lovely winter weather and head to the beach. I just wanted a good place to sit outside and read. We are so seldom outside here, and this time of year that's a shame.
I didn't go to lay out -- sometimes that's too complicated. Swimsuit or shorts? Sunscreen or not? Family beach or regular beach? Rent a chair and umbrella or sit on the sand?... I know, first-world decisions, of course.
Instead, I went to one of the cafes that line the Corniche, and sat in a comfortable chair (above) with a view of the bay and its turquoise waters. I ordered a coke and some fries, so they would let me stay awhile and settled in.
The powers that be seem to have removed the 40-foot portrait of whatever sheikh had previously been on a billboard on Lulu Island (below), which made the view nicer, frankly.
If you can put yourself in a "normal" sort of setting, away from the bustle and contradictions that are the UAE, it's not too hard to pretend you are somewhere exotic and desirable.
A colleague recently wrote about going to Lulu. It's technically off-limits, but nobody enforces that rule (a recurring theme here, to be sure). If you can get yourself there, weather by private boat, kayak or jet ski, the sands are lovely and there are hammocks under thatched palapas -- only I'm certain they aren't called palapas here.
I was thinking I'd like to figure out a way to get there.That would truly be good Abu Dhabi.

Bloom Where You're Planted

Having passed two-plus years here, I don't hate it as much as I used to. Now, living here has been upgraded to "don't really like." That's an improvement, right?
It took a trip to France (and several weeks of interesting travel) for me to really examine my current situation. Ultimately, I have a job I like and one that allows me to lead a comfortable, interesting lifestyle.
In the last six months I have been to California, Sri Lanka, India and France. That's not going to happen with any regularity once I move to, say California or France -- the two places I'd most rather be.
So a big part of adjusting to life here is learning to take advantage: eating on the terrace at the Lebanese restaurant, for example, or going to the beach  when the weather is nice; getting out of town when it isn't. And I'm fortunate enough to have those options.
Friends and former colleagues tease us about all the time off we have. For me, it's especially dear. I had seven weeks of vacation when I worked in France, and I've been an expat for 10 of the last 12 years, so I've really come to value that perq. Going back to two weeks off seems cruel and unusual. I don't think I'll ever manage to do that.
This isn't so much count-your-blessings as a bloom-where-you're planted. And it's taken me a long time to do that.
Should I get the chance to move back to Europe, will I do it? You betcha. But until then, I'm figuring out ways to not waste my life wishing I was elsewhere.