Happy New Year???

Traveling with my best friend.......

Airports….either the happiest place to be, or the most depressing.  I think of where I was at mentally just over two weeks ago.  Sitting in several airports on too many layovers after too many hours of flying, but so excited to go home.  Now I sit here waiting to start the long flight back to the sandbox.  (By the way….I suppose there is something quite poetic about flying on New Year’s Eve- but at the moment, I wonder what I was thinking in booking this flight?!) I reread the blog I wrote the first time I was at this airport getting ready to go to Abu Dhabi for the first time.  There was so much pain when I wrote that.  You would think after doing this several times, it would get easier to leave.  Instead, it seems to get more difficult.  There was a point this morning, just after getting my boarding pass and saying my sad good-bye to my husband that I thought, “what if I don’t get on this plane?”  In fact, I am still sitting here at my gate wondering if it’s too late to run far away from this airport and back to our home.  This airport, that held such excitement just a mere two weeks ago, now just feels cold and quiet.

I know I’m whining, and I know there is a silver lining in all of this.  But it wouldn’t be very authentic if I only wrote about the shiny happy times in this blog.  It wouldn’t be fair to omit the challenges that come with this journey.  Anyone reading this that is considering working abroad needs to know that it is NOT EASY.  Anyone reading this that is going through the same thing needs to know that they are not alone.

Now to not be a complete Debbie Downer on New Year’s Eve……

When I next land, it will be a new year.  2014.  The year that I come home for good.  Also, I am very blessed to feel so heartbroken at separation after 18 years of marriage.  This says something!  Finally, I have received such positive feedback from so many of you.  So many kind words.  You have no idea how much they fuel me through times like this.  These things are what get me back on the plane.  These things are what keep me “sane.”  These things get me through the sad airport trips.

Thank you for listening to my rants.  Have a wonderful New Year!

Paying it Forward

So, due to what I’m seeing on social networks and responses to my blog, there are quite a few people that are working overseas and leaving loved ones behind. Last month, I posted advice for a family member that was leaving the nest for the first time. I feel the need to do this again for those of you that might be in a similar predicament as myself and dealing with feelings of homesickness or loneliness.
So, here goes…..

– First off…make friends! They will become your lifeline as you adjust to the newness of everything.
– Put yourself on some type of regular schedule. Whether it’s working out, work, cleaning….whatever. Something that gives you a sense of “normalcy”
– Give yourself distractions. Maybe it’s shopping, sightseeing, movies….whatever. Continue your regular hobbies, but don’t be afraid to pick up a new one!
(That being said, do acknowledge your feelings and deal with them. Be PRESENT                 in your life. Emotions come in all shapes and sizes…the good, the bad, and the                   outright nasty. Just remember that the largest amount of growth comes through                   adversity.)
– If you are apart from a significant other- create a regular video chat time. Commit to it, no matter how you are feeling. If you were face to face- you would be dealing with all emotions. Don’t put on a show for the sake of distance. The more normal you can make your long distance relationship, the better!
 (BTW…there are great Countdown Apps for your next time home. During those                    sad and lonely times, it will help to see your time overseas in smaller chunks.)
– Overall- appreciate this moment in your life. Remember that it takes an adventurous soul to even attempt to take this on. If you are separated from a loved one, value the fact that you can miss them. It will make your reunion that much more special!

I write this from a moment of gratitude. I feel so blessed that I not only get to have this Great Adventure, but that I have so many people supporting my success. I know that there are people reading this that are considering taking on this type of endeavor, or enduring it right now and need to connect to something. I hope these words bring a sense of comfort and camaraderie. And above all else, take one day at a time. Find peace in your journey and carry on.

Missing Home......

Domo Arigato Gozaimasu

As I enjoy my last week home before heading back for my final round of teaching in Abu Dhabi, I find myself quite reflective.  I have learned many things about life and myself this past year, and I feel the need to give back.  I would also like to take the focus off myself this time because there is someone else I’d like to address.  Someone I have helped raise most of his 20 years of life.  He is now taking his own journey.  His own leap out into the world.  I’d like to dedicate this to him.

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As you venture out into this world and find your own path, I want to take the opportunity to throw out some advice.  Some of these are mistakes I have made in my own life, while some are just good sense.

-Always pay your bills first.  Take what’s left- save some, then allow some to be spent on silly things that make you happy.

-Respect your living accommodations. (yes, that means clean the bathroom!)  It will be someone’s home after you move on.

-Allow yourself to make mistakes- learn from them- move on.  You will always be a work in progress.

-Know that a year from now, a lot of the little things won’t matter, so don’t dwell on the negative.

-Having a roommate can be challenging.  It’s ok to ask, kindly, for a little space every once and a while.

-Know when to step into the spotlight and when to shine it on others.

-If you have wronged someone, apologize and mean it.  If they don’t accept it, learn to forgive yourself.

-EAT YOUR FRUITS AND VEGETABLES!

– Be responsible, but allow for occasional spontaneity and adventure.

-Invest in a GOOD alarm clock

-If you find yourself in a toxic situation, or around toxic people- remove yourself from it immediately.  Afterwards- think why that was in your life, and what you learned from it, then move on.

-Don’t be afraid to come back home.  There is never failure in trying.

-When in doubt, make them all wear hats!

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It is time to let you go and do your thing in this world.  We may not always agree with how you do it, but that is ok.  You have been raised to know right from wrong, how to show empathy and kindness, and when to be gracious.

You and you alone will know when to push through the challenges and when to step back and try a different tactic.  You will know when you have made a mistake and how to proceed from there.  You will know when to take a moment or two for yourself, and when to include others.  This is your life.  Live it well.

Osu

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“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.” -Alan Cohen

One Key (by our Guest Blogger)

Well, school is in its last few weeks, and I’ve been really busy getting through grades, etc.  My fabulous husband just got here for the first time, last night and has agreed to do a “guest blog.”  So without further ado, I introduce to you- Gene.

For Abu Bloggie Ali – One Key

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I’m Gene. Alison’s Husband. I wear that moniker with pride. I just said goodbye to much of my family on May 29th and began a journey that took me 36 hours, spanning 5 airports and 11 time zones to get to this small but beautiful apartment in another world two days later.

And I now have One Key.

This is significant for me, as one of my missions in coming here, besides seeing my wife after weeks and since our last time together, was to take a month-or-so respite from the crazy schedule I’ve had for the last month-or-so. I have been teaching classes at ASU and an acting studio, acting and producing multiple video projects, volunteering with my Kiwanis club and others as well as taking care of our home and furry family members. The   IMG_0148 day I left I was meeting with clients and wrapping up production paperwork on a large project for a non-profit that involved 30 actors and a crew of nine. I have multiple sets of keys for our home, two offices and my school, 3 vehicles, a rental home, etc. I had them on several rings and always had to check before I left the house to ensure I had the keys I needed for my busy day.

Now it’s June, the month I spend in this faraway land. And I have one key to this apartment. Oh, sure, it sits on a key ring, ready for a partner. Maybe I’ll be trusted with a car key; I got my International Driver’s License from AAA, hanging out with my different currency and passport here.

But one key is fine right now. A symbol of this new, welcome simplicity – woo hoo!

I want to explore this place with my wonderful wife, try new food, meet her colleagues from all over the world, workout more dedicatedly, read some books, scheme some new projects, do research for my classes and dream about what happens when I have Ali back home, complete with her master’s degree, over a year from now.

There’s a much more important thing for me to explore here, however, in the Middle East. The woman nicknamed “Abu Dhabi Ali” after an earlier blog post located here.

When I married Ali, she had never been outside the U.S., other than Mexico. Since then, we’ve traveled to Europe and Japan, and seen Alaska and Hawaii together. This extended solo journey has brought her not only career opportunity and better income, but the independence and worldly perspective of a woman who has grown and matured, yet still adventurous and confident. This “other” Ali fascinates and delights me, while complimenting the other Ali I know back in the States. I’m a lucky man to have them both in my life. Some people have asked how I could “let her go” on this extended adventure away from me. Really? She said she’d stay if I asked her to, but I know it’s the right thing. If I said this was easy, I’d be lying. But supporting my wife on this assignment has given me a chance to grow, strengthen myself as well as our marriage at the same time. This month is a chance for me to understand as well as renew our life together. I definitely needed this.

After spending months admiring Ali’s blog, I’m honored to be a guest blogger here. That’s also how I feel about this trip in many ways. I’m grateful to reunite with my lovely wife, but I realize I am also a guest in her “other” world. I’m glad to meet Abu Dhabi Ali and share this time with her. I’ll be even more excited to bring her home for the summer, back to our normal lives until she returns to the other side of the world for one more year. But right now I’m enjoying filling my senses with this new place, gathering strange souvenirs and new experiences. And using my One Key.

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Mile 9

When I turned 30, I started running ½ marathons.  Since then, I have tried to run one every year…..about 10-ish?  (STOP DOING THE MATH!)  In every single one of them, I always hit this mental wall at mile 9.  The start of the race is about the excitement.  There is the crowd of anxious runners, the music, the spectators, then finally the Star Spangled Banner (which always gets me teary much to my “bad-ass” alter ego’s dismay).  Then you begin.  You dodge your way in and out of pockets of people to find your rhythm.  Your groove.  When you hit mile 6, you realize you are about half-way finished.  Yay!  Then reality slowly sinks in.  You still have another half to go.  You try to keep a positive attitude.  Then you hit mile 9. DAMN you, mile 9.  Perhaps it’s just me?  But when I hit mile 9, I no longer care that I’m “almost” there.  I’m tired, I have blisters, my toes have gone numb, my knees are screaming, I want to drink lots of water….hell, who am I kidding- I want a margarita!  (hey- I’ve lost a lot of salt at this point!)  Needless to say, at this point, I am thinking of quitting.  How lame would that be, right?  I am not the best runner.  I have no desire to do a full marathon.  It takes me about six months to train for these, and I should be thinking homestretch!  Alas, it never fails.  Low point at mile 9.  Don’t get me wrong….at mile 10 my morale starts boosting.  By 12, I’m flying to the finish.  Mile 9 just always pulls the rug out from underneath me.  I am in mile 9 of the first year of my overseas adventure.

I’ve been here since August, and only have five weeks left of my class.  My husband comes out here in three weeks.  You all are now thinking, “GET OVER IT, WOMAN.”  I’m just zapped.  I fight to stay motivated and strong.  I try to stay energized even though I keep ending up sick.  I get lonely, even though I am not alone here.  Mile 9.

I have a great summer planned ahead of me, I actually get PAID over the summer, I get to be home for more than three weeks at a time, yet I struggle to be enthusiastic.  Mile 9.

I guess the blessing of experiencing this feeling before in my life is to know that this too, shall pass.  I have accomplished a lot this year.  I have started going back to school to obtain my Masters Degree, I have lived on my own for the first time in my entire life, I have learned more about myself as a teacher here than all my previous years in the states bundled together.  So what I have learned about mile 9?  Keep focusing up, not down at my feet.  Don’t stop to walk, it’ll just be that much harder to start up again.  Look at all the runners around me.  They have got to be feeling the same way, right?  Encourage each other to keep going.  Get my best song going on my Ipod and put my game face on. Mile 10 is coming up.

Finish Line!

Dreaming of Another World (aka…more ramblings from an airport terminal)

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So sitting here in another airport bar in the midst of a 7-hour layover, heading back to Abu Dhabi after my spring break.  Then this song comes on, “Dreaming of Another World.”  It kind of hit me, because that is what this whole adventure ends up feeling like at the end of the day-some strange dream.

So there is “Arizona Ali” and “Abu Dhabi Ali.”  Apparently, these two haven’t met just yet.  I realize this, because every time I travel from one to the other, the other place seems     quite surreal.  In fact, I can’t quite tell which is home and which is a vacation anymore. And during these long commutes, I feel like I’m in this strange in-between place transitioning from one life to the other.

“Arizona Ali” is a very content Ali.  She is happily married to a wonderfully patient, kind and understanding man that supports this strange journey of hers.  She lives down the street from her family and enjoys drinking wine with them celebrating any occasion.  She is content hanging at home, loves being outside, and runs an organized- Type A kind of household.

AZ Ali and her Barbie Car (mid-life crisis car)

Oh, how I’ve missed you!

The world's best husband!

Oh, how I’ve missed you more!

“Abu Dhabi Ali” is a bit more restless.  She wants to venture out more, spend money beyond her means, eat and drink a wee bit more than she should and is often looking ahead at “what’s next?”

The Abu Dhabi Adventure Club

Making the most of my time here!

At moments like these, when I’m transitioning from one to the other, I ponder how I got here?  Can I do this another year?  And what happens when this adventure is over?  Do these two personalities harmonize? Or does one get lost in the other?

In about 5 weeks, my husband will be coming out to Abu Dhabi and meeting “Abu Dhabi Ali.”  I’m hoping that will help bridge the gap?

Can’t wait!

Head in the Clouds….

It’s that time again.  One more week, and I’m heading home for break!  It’s been a whirlwind trimester so far.  I bit the bullet and enrolled back in school to get my Masters Degree in Education.  The timing is right and with online schooling, it makes it a lot easier to commit to from another continent! I think that is why I have been a little lazy about writing here?  Anyhoo, I have recently been turned on to Word Clouds.  We are using them for assignments, and I’m quite convinced I will get addicted to these things.  If I can get the technology going, I’d love to create these with my class.  But for now?  I will share here.  I tried to encapsulate this blog in this picture.  Enjoy!  (www.tagxedo.com is da bomb!)

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Giving Thanks

I will keep this short and sweet today.

I am sitting on my balcony overlooking the water, watching the sun just start to make an appearance.  It is still Thanksgiving back home…..we just had our “ex-pat” version last night.  It wasn’t perfect, as we had to work, but we still tried to make it special and something familiar.  So as I sit watching the sun peek in as it has just left the other side of the world, I find myself especially thankful for so many things:

I am thankful for new friends here that help keep me “sane”

I am thankful for finally being paid decently for a job that I am good at

I am thankful for having friends and family that support this adventure

I am thankful for having a balcony that allows me to watch the sun rise in the morning and set in the evening

My amazing view

I am thankful for the Internet that allows me to stay connected with the people I love back home

I am thankful that I have a little furball here that seems to love me (although I think he plots to kill me in my sleep?)

What is he thinking right now??

I am thankful to have the most amazing husband that just cooked for Thanksgiving by himself for the first time!

And I am so very thankful that I get to go home for Christmas in 3 short weeks

Happy Thanksgiving!