Friday, September 30, 2011

Seasons Change, People Change…

Autumn has come to Saudi Arabia.  I know this not because there is a bite of winter in the breeze; instead, occasionally the breeze isn’t actually hot.  I know this not because the colors of the changing trees surround me; instead, occasionally the sky is blue rather than yellow.  I know this not because I need the odd hot drink to warm my fingers; instead, occasionally I need to add a little hot water to the stream of cold in order to keep my shower scalding.

I miss DC with its autumn smells and colors.  I miss the ability to get a Pumpkin Spice latte from Starbucks.  I miss wearing sweaters.  I miss rain which I haven’t seen for months.  I miss walking outside.  I miss being out at night on my own.  I miss being on the street on my own at time of day in fact.

I’m looking at my windows right now, soaked on the outside with condensation because the humidity that burns off during the day comes back with a vengeance at night.  In another couple of weeks, the weather here should be lovely, not autumnal, but lovely.  Nevertheless, I’m using travel to satisfy my need for climate change.  I’m planning an early November trip to Europe with my mom and hopefully my sister, a trip where I’ll likely get to wear sweaters and boots in the rain.  Christmas in Ireland will be cold and wet and soaked in the season; heck, I’ll likely be thrilled to return to the warmth of the desert for the new year.

Today was the end of the fiscal year and so therefore the end of a crazy couple of weeks at work.  It was also the 6 year anniversary of my father’s death.  For the first year ever, my mom, sister, and I were all in different places, different countries in fact, for this anniversary.  My sister, alone in DC, had no one to travel to the cemetery with her to deliver flowers and drink a toast.  Today of all days, I wish I had been there with her, for her. 

Despite the fact that I love my job and love living overseas, some days I wish I led a more normal life, one that allows me to be present for special occasions both happy and sad.  Today was one of those days.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Ten years ago I was newly arrived in Kuwait, three weeks into a two year tour. I was working in the consular section, handling visas and settling into life in the Middle East. Weeks before, I had been in NYC with my mom and sister, one last hurrah before heading overseas. On that trip, we did almost every tourist thing you can do in New York save going up in the Twin Towers. I have a punishing fear of heights, and after having a panic attack at the Empire State Building, I decided to forgo any more trips on high, and my mother and sister agreed, promising themselves a trip to the top of the World Trade Center on their next visit to the city. Little did we know how much would have changed before that next trip.

When we first got word that a plane had hit the WTC, we all gathered around the TV wondering how such an accident could happen in Manhattan. When we saw the second plane hit, we knew it was no accident. The next few hours were spent in a flurry of setting up an emergency operations center and fielding calls from hundreds of American citizens living in Kuwait. In between it all, I tried frantically for hours to reach my family in DC before finally getting through and learning they were safe. We lived at work for the next couple of days trying to help people track down loved ones, trying to soothe their fears and grief, trying to wrap our minds around the attack. Kuwaitis came out in droves to express their grief, delivering flowers, signs, and cards to the embassy. Over time, as the names of the victims became known, there was time to mourn for college classmates, for the parents of friends, for members of my extended community. There was fear and uncertainty, there was grief and anger, and eventually, there was the dawning realization that the world as we knew it would never be the same.

Ten years later, I find myself once again living in the Middle East, living in a world forever changed and to a certain extent forever defined by what happened a decade ago in New York and in DC and in Pennsylvania. I see war and conflict and fear in so many places, so many lives lost and so many more changed by the events of September 11, 2001. And today, a day when it is impossible not to remember a day we can never forget, I find myself with nothing more to say than "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bedroom Makeover: Curtain Angst

So I'm trying to remake my bedroom into a cohesive space, not easy when I don't own the furniture and am limited in what I can do to the space. The first element that needs to be addressed is the windows.

I hate the windows in my house- they are barred and open right onto the "street" at the front of the house so leaving them uncovered is not an option. Before I moved in, the whole house had mustard yellow velvety curtains with torn yellowing sheers (they look much better in this photo than they did in real life). These came down when I got the house painted and never went back up!
The paint is "desert beige" and would not be my top choice but was the best of the 8 options I was offered. It looks better now that the carpet is gone and it is a nice neutral backdrop for art.
We got new blinds which was a plus- wide white plantation blinds that I selected for everyone on compound. The problem is that the windows have no trim of any kinds which I hate so the look of the blinds alone isn't doing it for me.
For months after I moved in, I lived with sheets on the windows, sheets provided with the house because my worldly goods had not yet arrived. Don't ask me why the sheets that come with the house have a strawberry pattern- that design decision is one I will never understand.
Finally when home in DC this summer, I hit IKEA (we have one here in Dhahran but the curtain selection is terrible). I bought these white curtains that are supposed to reduce the light. I don't love the tabs, but I hope to make them smaller once my new sewing machine comes from Amazon (free gift that I have to now teach myself to use). The problem is, I had planned to use only one panel per window but I think they look too stretched.
I tried using two panels on the window on the right below but I think that is too full for my taste. Also, ignore the pooling on the floor which will go away once I reduce the length of the tabs.
The last picture shows just one panel but less stretched- I kept all the tabs inside the brackets (at first I had one tab outside the bracket on each side).
I think this is my current preference, though I suspect my ideal would be one panel that was 1.5 times the width of the current panels. If my mom was here, I could convince her to make that happen for me, but I am fearful my sewing skills might not stretch that far (once they are actually developed that is!)

Sigh...still so very not happy with this bedroom...