02 February 2010

Half Way There

Half way there, baby, half way there.

Today was our 500th day in the UAE. Only 500 days to go, give or take. I’m not much of a milestone person. No, really. I’m lucky if I can remember when my children were born; heck, I’m lucky if I can remember how old I am. I spent all of my 35th year thinking I was 36. Boy was I surprised at that birthday! Graduations came and went. Boy and I were married on the Summer Solstice. I thought this would help me remember the date; however, that year the solstice was on the 20th, not the 21st, so I still get mixed up.

But the other night I was sitting at the computer catching up with email and blog reading when a voice rang out in the night, “Five hundred days.”

“What was that, sweetie?”

“We’re half-way there.”

“Half-way where?” I ask.

“We’ve been in the UAE for 500 days, tomorrow. Only 514 to go,” says Boy.

Now, I’m not a mathematician (that’s my mom) or a physicist (that’s my dad) or even super duper smart (that’s my husband), but I do believe that 500+514 = 1014. Divide that by two and you get 507, which would make half-way there a week from now. But who am I to argue? It must be new math. Or maybe it’s old? Or maybe it’s just close enough for someone who likes to lie awake at night crunching numbers just for fun. I married my mother! What does that say about me?

Anyway, Boy loves to number crunch and mark milestones. We celebrate birthdays and half-birthdays. We even celebrated our billion-second birthdays, just because we could. He knows when our children were born. He knows their social security numbers. He knows when we were married. And he knows, roughly, when we will be leaving here.

So, back to half-way there. The thought of it leads me to think about our staying or going. It’s a question we get asked a lot, a question we ask each other. A lot. How long are we staying? The truth is, we don’t know. We are here on a three year contract; however, there is a chance we will be offered the opportunity to renew. At that point, we could stay another one to three years, with opportunities to renew every three years. Some people don’t even last for their first year here. Others have been around for twelve or twenty or more. Since we’ve made it to the half-way mark, we are likely to last our tour of duty. We are also working on our “exit strategy” which means we are unlikely to get “stuck” for additional years; we will only be staying with the college’s good graces and our own desire. Why stay? It’s the money, plain and simple. Where else and when else in our lives will we be able to save so much?! We can save as much in one year here as we were able to earn, after taxes, with both of us working back home on teachers’ salaries. There is also the glorious sun and the wonderful beaches full of seashells and soft sand with warm waters to swim in. Prime beach time is six months out of the year here, compared to one month a year back home. But there is a cost. And it’s huge—we have no family. Some people decide to make the friends they have here their surrogate families, and I can understand that. We’ve done that—birthdays and holidays are prime times to miss the ones we love back home and so we surround ourselves with our UAE friends. But always we know they are just temporary. No one knows when their time will be up in this place.

And so we talk a lot about staying and going. We love the sun and the beaches and the savings, but we miss the trees and the rain (and snow!) and visiting family. We enjoy our friends, the cultural diversity, our home and affordable health care, and not to forget—our job. Boy loves his job here. Don’t even get him started on Texas! But we long for a home in the country where we can see stars (Boy is an astronomy guy after all) and breathe clean air and garden! and keep a few chickens and maybe even bees. We have dreams. And those dreams do not look like camels wandering over sand dunes or spectacular sunsets. They aren’t dreams of crystal blue oceans or even white sand beaches. But right now, that is the dream we are living. And we are grateful. Grateful for the opportunity to live here and experience this part of the world and all the cultures that come together to make the UAE the amazing and exciting and sometimes completely exasperating place that it is. I never in a million years imagined myself living this life in this place, yet here I am. And it is good. But I can’t help but think about how good it will be to go home, wherever that home may be. But that is a thought for another day. . .


  1. I just want to say in my defense: as a shortcut I've been counting our 33 months and 10 days from arrival to end of visa as 33 x 30 + 10 = 1000 days. --Boy

  2. New math? Naw. Just super duper smart. Thanks for the clarification!

  3. Wow, what an experience you and your child are having. Memories to last a lifetime I'm sure.