I needed a break

photo

I thought that eventually I would write an epilogue to The Reuter’s Big Adventure. That that part of our life was over, I would wrap it up and print it out and move on my way. Look back at it for many years and smile.

But, I’m not really ready to wrap it up. That part of my life didn’t end, it turned into this new beginning. And I don’t really know what that looks like, yet. It is not neat and fun all of the time, but it is still our big Adventure.

I am glad to be “home”, but I am very sad to be gone too. I have realized this for what it is, a grief period. All four of us are mourning the loss of a very special place and people and trying to figure out what will come next.

So, I don’t know what this blog will shift into, but you are welcome to come along.

Hello Roomservice?

It’s me, Eloise.

DSC05639

We are happily holed up at the InterContinental Hotel here in Abu Dhabi for our last days here. The movers came and packed up 61 boxes earlier in the week. And when I say boxes, I mean any furniture or whatever we are shipping was custom-made a box and packed up. It was quite amazing to watch these guys make cardboard origami to accommodate odd-shaped furniture.

This has been a good segue to leaving for us. The lobby full of Christmas decorations and a huge gingerbread house is a great distraction to what is going on in our lives. That’s not to say there hasn’t been tears, there have been plenty, but access to the Club Level for tea time and scones with clotted cream go a long way.

Tomorrow is the last day of school, a half day with teacher conferences and then goodbyes to everyone at GEMS. Last Thursday at the Christmas Concert, our principal Jay was thanking all of the teachers for their hard work to make it an enjoyable show. When he finished with them he said he had one last person to thank. I was completely unprepared to be called up in front of the entire school and parents to receive a lovely bouquet of flowers and a painting of camels on silk by a local artist. It was all I could do to squeak out a few words of thanks and how much we will miss everyone without bawling. We will miss this school terribly, it has been such a wonderful place for our kids to get their start.

IMG_0331

That will be all for now, thank you very much, and charge it please.

It’s Groundhog Day

I can’t believe I am sitting here procrastinating over a move again. Seriously, August 2008 was yesterday and I was dragging my feet on doing the inventory and counting all of our junk. And here we are again, 4 years 4 months later and it is the same story. Well, not exactly. To my credit the inventory is done and sent off along with the US Customs forms for all of our goods. However, somehow in this time we went from under 1000 lbs being shipped to now somewhere around 4500 lbs….Wonder how that happened? The movers will be here on Sunday to pack and Monday to load. We will move into a hotel on Sunday as our beds will be gone. So we finish where we started. Back at a hotel, a little anxious about what comes next.

We’ve been busy with school stuff and meeting up with friends to say “see you again sometime, somewhere”. It was the National Day Holiday over the weekend, the UAE turned 41!

IMG_0301

We had fun celebrations at school, at the hospital, everywhere! We also went to Dubai for the day to spend a wonderful day with Laura, Francesco, Bianca, and Fillipo. It was so nice to have the whole day with them and make plans to see them again, in Italy! Then on Saturday night we went with a caravan of probably 20 cars out to the desert to watch the sun go down and relax. It was perfect, there were kids running everywhere and we got to catch up and say good bye to the French-Canadian contingency. I will miss the desert! The rest of the weekend was spent organizing, throwing out and laying around.

The next 9 days will be a blur. A teary blur. Stay tuned for some picture posts.

Oh yes, 1 more thing: someone passed their yellow belt test in karate yesterday.

IMG_0317

Shoot, he’s cute.

 

First of lasts

It has happened to so many people that we have known here, yet it still came as a bit of a shock when it happened to us.  We’re coming home for Christmas, and we’re staying for good. It has all happened very fast and the details are all very boring, but the bottom line is that Jon has been offered a very good job staying with the Cleveland Clinic. He will have to travel back and forth a few times in the New Year, but we will stay and start the next chapter of our lives.

I am very excited to get home and be closer to family and be with everyone more consistently. I am excited for Amelia and Charlie to see what living in America is really like. As far as they are concerned, Cleveland is vacation, camp, family visits, all the fun stuff. They say they are “so excited” for the winter at home and to take some skiing lessons. And I am too. But, I am anxious and sad too. We have had a wonderful 4+ years in Abu Dhabi. We have made some life long friends from all over the world. Speaking of all over the world, we have done some amazing travel and I am already mourning that loss. Yes, we will travel around the US and I am excited to take the kids to see what America has to offer, but China for Eid break? I’m gonna miss that. I am even going to miss all of the multi-cultural frustrations we have here from time to time. Because they have been an insight into other viewpoints and a realization at times, of how lucky we are to be Americans.

I am anxious that even though we are moving back to our fabulous neighborhood with amazing neighbors, we are starting over too. It will be a new school and new friends for all of us. I have been able to live on the periphery in Cleveland for the last 4 years, with a handful of great girlfriends, who I can pick up where we left off with. But now I will have to dive in and invest in more people.

Charlie summed it up best tonight as we were getting ready for bed and he seemed a little sad, “I just wish we could have both, I just wish we could have our friends in Cleveland and in Abu Dhabi, all in one place”. And I tried to explain to him that we do have both, in our hearts. It is funny to be looking at this from the other side now. As excited as we are to get “home” now, it really feels like we are leaving it too.

Nie hao

After 4 years of living abroad and traveling, I finally convinced Jon that it was time. Time to head to China. We had wanted to wait to visit China when the kids got a little older and easier travelers, we had heard that English was spoken little and that it was hard to get around. But, if not this year, then when? So off we went….

We arrived in Beijing early in the morning and started exploring the neighborhood we were staying in, Doncheng, specifically Wangfujing. The weather was pleasantly cool and clear compared to the heat we are still suffering through in Abu Dhabi. We decided to give the subway a go and try to find the Silk Road Market. We find the kids always behave best when we bribe them with little trinkets along the way, and where better to head than the largest knock-off shopping center I have ever seen.  We needed sustenance and settled on a cafeteria near the Silk Market. No one spoke English, but there were pictures and prices on the wall and we could point and smile. We ended up with the most delicious hot pots of noodles, veggies, and meats.

We learned that the kids would eat ALMOST anything as long as they could do it with chopsticks!

Our second morning found us on way to the Jiankou Section of The Great Wall of China. We had looked at a lot of tours on line that would take us to a rebuilt section of the Wall where it was easy for tourists to get to and visit, but then we started seeing tours that allowed us to hike from one section of the wall to another. Our kids are ambitious hikers and climbers, why not? We weren’t quite prepared for this;

Unfortunately for pictures, it was a foggy day. But it was gorgeous being up there, the leaves were changing, it was not too hot because the sun wasn’t out bright, and we hiked until our legs nearly fell off. The Great Wall of China is over 8000 km long protecting it from invaders over 2000 years ago. It is amazing that it is still standing. After the initial ascent that we had to pull Amelia half way up, we reached the first guard tower and it was nothing but amazing from there.

There are a million more pictures of our hike on the Wall in my public album. The hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu took us over 4 hours of solid up hill, down hill, and side hill climbing and hiking. It was one for the record books. We hired a your guide named James to get us to the Wall and around, it was so interesting to have him with us and to learn about what it is like to be a 20 something in China. To be married and working, and wanting to live in the city of Beijing because it is more convenient for their jobs, but the government controlled rent being more than most make. To be allowed only to have one child; and if you have a second, you are fined AND fired from your job. I can’t tell you how many people asked us if BOTH of the kids were ours in astonishment. We enjoyed a delicious lunch and cold beer with him after the hiking, and slept like rocks that night.

Day 3 had us exploring more of Beijing with a trip to The Forbidden City. It was originally the home of Emperors for over five centuries, “forbidden” to everyone but the ruling class. Today, everyone and their brother goes for a visit.

The highlight of our tour, electronic guides with GPS!

We spent the rest of that day wandering around different neighborhoods and checking out the Wangfujing Night Market with food stalls. Home of stir fried scorpions and caterpillars. Sadly, the camera was back at the hotel. And no, we did not give them a try.

We then traveled to Xi’an, a 2 hour plane ride from Beijing. Xi’an was the capital of China for centuries. During the Qin dynasty, Emperor Shi Huangdi ordered an elaborate tomb built for himself, complete with warriors, horses, animals, and carriages, all made out of terracotta. More on that later….

Xi’an is a city of 15+ million people and is on the Silk Road, the trade route that went up through Asia into the Middle East. An import of the Silk Road is Islam, and we started our rainy morning in the Muslim Quarter of Xi’an.

The people of Xi’an were traditionally farmers, and depictions of everyday farm life are all over the city.

We then visited the City of Wall of Xi’an that surrounds the entire city.

The wall was over 20 feet high and flat on the top, with amazing guardhouses  (see above picture) stationed along the way. We had heard that you can rent bikes and ride the whole way around, unfortunately it was raining and cold so we had to skip the bikes and go for a short stroll.

At the entrance to the wall they had on display some of the traditional weapons that were once used to protect the wall. Behold, one of my most favorite pictures ever:

you must click on the picture to check out the kid’s facial expressions

Back to the tradition of farming in Xi’an, in 1974 and farmer was digging a well about an hour outside of town and started uncovering body parts, terracotta body parts, that is. This is what was eventually uncovered:

Over 8000 warriors, horses, and chariots have been found so far. And this is just the army that is guarding the mausoleum, which they have not opened to the public yet. All of the warriors have different facial expressions and poses. They were apparently painted at the time they were made (221-206 BC) but have since faded having been buried all of that time.

one of the three pits of warriors

Most of the warriors were discovered in pieces and it was so interesting to see the process that the archeologists are taking to reconstruct this impressive treasure.

It was a fast and fabulous 6 days in China, yes there were several times we would try to talk to someone and get a blank look or people would just start speaking rapid fire Mandarin at us. But the food and the sights and the memories, made the difficulties a trip well worth the 4 years it took me to convince Jon to take.

All photos can be found here   including the super cool photo above, taken by Charlie on his Ipod!

eight is great!

Another year, another birthday for Sweet Amelia. Can you believe that this is the 5th birthday that she has celebrated in Abu Dhabi. That means that she has had more here than there. Funny how that happened. Time flies when you are having fun.

But, Eight is a big year. Amelia started talking about her birthday and party before we left Cleveland this summer, my girl was psyched. But, as we drew closer she got on a kick about how she didn’t really want to get older. How seven was a great age and she wanted to stay there. What was I going to do? I had to help her get excited about turning a year older and the only thing that came to mind was the party. That now that she was eight, she could have a more sophisticated birthday party. The idea seemed to pep her up. Let the brainstorming begin! We talked and by-passed ice skating, bowling, slumber party (thank the good lord), and ended up oooooonnnnn Spa Party. Jon had to be out-of-town for a good friend’s wedding in Vancouver, so I would be on my own. This left the perfect opportunity for a select group of girls doing something very fancy. We talked about going out to lunch and the spa, but bless my sweet girl she said she only wanted my cooking, and only wanted her favorite meal. Behold! Tacos & Tips n’ Toes was born!
Amelia chose 3 of her little friends who came over for a lunch of tacos, some fun crafts and play, and then onto the spa for mani/pedis!

Gabby, Olivia, Amina, and Amelia

So, if it is a Spa Party, then there HAS to be a spa cake, right?

This is where the story takes a slightly unfortunate turn. Just after blowing out her candles, Amelia looks at me and says she wants to go lie down. Oh no. Her stomach is bothering her. So, I suggest we cancel the rest of the party and make it up later, no problem! Nope, that brings a very sad little girl. So, I load all 4 girls up (Amelia is looking quite gray at this point) and head to the salon. They are all picking out their colors and getting their mani/pedis; happy, happy, happy. Amelia turning green-ish.  Then looking up at me before bending over and, shall we say, giving her taco lunch back. Thankfully there was a trash can literally right there. Amelia has never once hit the toilet while sick, but that big girl did not get a speck outside of that trash can. Here’s to being 8! She felt MUCH better after that and enjoyed her french manicured fingers and blue toes!

She woke up the next morning on her actual Birthday, mad at me because she had to go to school, but then we skyped with Chincha and Pop pop, opened a couple of presents and decided it would be alright to head in. I brought cupcakes to her class and then after school her soccer team had an inter league game and she came this close to scoring a goal.

Does anyone see an extra player that looks a little different from the rest?

How about now?

They asked Charlie to sub-in for an absent player and he was happy to oblige.

We headed home where Amelia was very excited to learn that her presents were all hidden and they had to go on a scavenger hunt to find them. Some of her favorite gifts included; a microscope kit, Monopoly. a paint by number set, legos, books, and some clothes.

After skyping and talking with more family, and finally Daddy in Vancouver it was time for bed. And as Amelia settled into bed that night, she confided in me that being eight isn’t so bad, she could read all of the clues for the present hunt on her own! I explained to her that little did she know, that was only the beginning of a great year.

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with Amelia’s birthday, but gosh I love those kids!

Settling in

Well, we’re in our third week of school already. Time flies when you’re having fun? We are getting into the rhythm, which has changed from last year because now BOTH kids have homework. Every night. I believe homework is actually more work for me than it is for my kids. Sitting at the table with one on either side of me (what do you do if you have more than two???) working on spelling, reading,  and counting by 10s, creating a routine. Almost every day there is an after school activity for Amelia or Charlie, but never for both on the same day! But, they are happy and first reports coming in from their teachers are very good, both in knowledge retention from last year and social interactions. Phew, I love it when we settle in.

On the weekends we have decided to go pure ex-pat this year and get a “time-share” in a boat. A boat, can you believe it? The Mary is not so glamorous but she gets us out on the open water and takes us to a mangrove island where we can swim around and explore. Right now we are mostly in the water the whole time due to the extreme temperatures, but give it another month and we’ll be bee-bopping around to find and explore new places.

Our fearless captain

the water is not that green, it is the filter on hipstamatic

It gets us out of the house for a few hours on Saturday morning. We usually take another family along so that the kids can run around  together and the parents can soak and enjoy this treat that will always be Abu Dhabi to me.