Almost time to say goodbye to Yas Island..

It’s almost time to move out of the extended stay hotel and into an apartment. The hope is that we will begin to move on Thursday or Friday of this week.

While I’m excited to move, I’m also a little bummed since this extended stay hotel offers breakfast every morning and dinner four nights a week.

In the new place I’ll have to cook all my own food…or perhaps just eat less.

The new apartment is larger than our current accommodation and also has a gym and a pool (actually two). Something the apartment offers that the hotel doesn’t is several grassy areas with jungle gyms and swings and things for the children.

One thing that doesn’t exist in that neighborhood, however; a hotel. No hotel = no bar. So, I will have to get more adventurous and learn a few more bus routes!

In the meantime, I have four or so more days here on Yas Island, so I will do my best to inhale it all in before we depart.

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American Independence Day in Abu Dhabi

The extended stay hotel dining area decorations

Right this moment I am sitting in the extended stay hotel dining area. This is the hotel that we have been living out of since our arrival on June 18th.

There is a small American flag as the centerpiece on each table, red, white and blue balloons beautifully displayed around the dining area, and even large glass vases filled with water and dyed for our patriotic pleasure.

The hotel served up hamburgers, french fries and mac and cheese for dinner last night in celebration of America’s independence. They also brought in a popcorn machine just for the night.

This morning, as I came down for breakfast, they had pancakes available; also in celebration of the 4th of July.

To top it all off, shortly after I sat down I was graced with the company of two American Marine’s I have come to know the last few days. Perry, who just arrived two days ago, and David, who has been here one year and is having his going away party tonight (He leaves Saturday night).

I couldn’t help but have a little laugh…. There is nothing quite like sitting with two American Military men eating pancakes to celebrate the 4th of July while in Abu Dhabi.

Also, all awhile the news on the TV’s rattle on about the potentially extremely high shock of the cost of our presidents parade on the tax payer…

Needless to say, Happy 4th of July to all my fellow Americans.

May your celebrations be filled with fun and true reflection.

Be well. Be happy.

Watering my own grass

follow your path

There is that saying, “The grass is always greener…”. I’ve heard it a million times, and I am sure you have too, but did you ever sit down and think about what that means? Like really think about it….?

In the last year or so I’ve come to realize that the grass is only green where you water it.

I had a similar routine for years; I would spend a few years single and having a great time. I would party without a single care in the world, take spontaneous trips at a last seconds notice, and talk openly about how I loved my freedom and didn’t need anyone else to make me happy. I felt grateful that I didn’t have to report back to anyone or ask permission to do anything at all. If I wanted to stay out all night, I would. If I wanted to stay in all night with a face mask on and a glass of wine, I could do that too.. I could do whatever I wanted, and I loved it!!

And then eventually I’d meet a man I wanted to invest some serious time into and I’d suddenly stop and spend all my time with that man. Before too long I would realize I felt alone and secluded from all the fun, and I would begin to think about the grass all my friends were frolicking in and I’d want that back. So, without warning I’d break another heart and jump back over the fence.

And then the cycle would begin again. This went on for years.

In 2010 I moved to San Francisco after a pretty dramatic break up with a guy I had been dating for several years. When we met he was amazing, but as the years passed by I began to feel completely taken advantage of. He was in a band and his band came before anything else and often required the assistance of my pocketbook. He also was mostly staying with me in my one bedroom apartment but was never contributing to rent, utilities, or groceries. He eventually began making a documentary that circled around a bunch of conspiracy theories and little by little I began to feel unsafe in my own home (He insisted on keeping a loaded shotgun in my home!!! WTF!!). Needless to say, I had to end that and get far away. So I took off to California.

When I began my journey in California I was living on a couch on 18th and Shotwell and googling (literally) “where to make friends in San Francisco”. All signs pointed to a park in the Mission District called Dolores Park, so I set out to find it. After a few days of wandering the city trying to find this park (this was before smart phones), I found it.

The first day I spent at Dolores Park I was wide eyed; observing. I saw people laying on blankets, reading books and magazines, drinking water and beer, listening to music, and even smoking joints (I was not in Pennsylvania anymore, that was for sure!).

So, the next day I went back to the park with a blanket to lay on, some beers to drink, and my journal. I did this nearly every day for about a week when I finally met a group of men who were on a blanket next to me. There were about 7 of them, and then me. They were all highly educated and very friendly and vowed to show me the city. And boy oh boy did they!!!

From using public transportation, to partying in the Castro District, the Mission, the Tenderloin, and Downtown, to every single street festival and drag show we had a BLAST! They showed me love in ways that I had never felt before. They quickly became my San Francisco family and I will forever love each and every one of them. They taught me the importance of watering my own grass, and that is something I’ve been working on ever since.

I have, of course had bumps in the road. Gave some men too much of my time who didn’t deserve it, gave other men too little of my time that did, and through all of those experiences I have learned a lot about myself, and what my grass needs to stay green, yet I never really put myself first to keep it that way. I spent my time having fun and not necessarily nurturing my own soul.

I traveled and worked and traveled and worked until eventually I began to feel that dissatisfaction with my life again. I did what I always have done and began to look for a new place to live. Where would I want to go next? What would it take for me to pick up my life and move it again, now at 33.

And that’s when I was approached with this opportunity to live in Abu Dhabi for 3 months.

The universe has shown herself again!!!! In my moment of need, she showed me a promising path!!!!

So now, here I sit, in Abu Dhabi.

Currently living in an extended stay hotel, life has been wonderful. I’ve been running at the gym nearly every day, eating healthy, drinking tons of water, rotating my time between the beach and the pool, meeting friends and enjoying the occasional scotch or whisky (as opposed to my previous routine of over indulgence).

When I talk to friends from home they all mention that I seem to be ‘beaming’. That my Aura has changed and that I appear to be so happy here.. and it’s true.

Yas Beach, Abu Dhabi

I’m watering my own grass.

In 15 days we’ll be moving into our new apartment in a neighborhood of Abu Dhabi called Al Reef. Life will certainly change for me as the feeling of being on ‘vacation’ will surely come to a close, but I hope to take that opportunity to get the house set up, continue on my road to good health, and begin to really explore this city as I will be closer to town and therefore closer to public transportation.

There is a list of places I want to see and things I want to do while I’m here in Abu Dhabi, and its just about time to start exploring those places.

As each day goes on, I remind myself of how important it is to water my own grass. No snarky text message or projections from other peoples personal dissatisfaction can take me down right now. I’m on a cloud of self care and I don’t intend to come down from it anytime soon.

Even if you’re not in a position to check out completely like I have pretty much gotten the chance to do here, please remember how important your own grass is. It needs watering, and even the occasional fertilization (not always the easy part of grass care, but necessary non the less), and of course, gentle touch and lots of love.

Be well. Be happy.

The changes we come to know

My first morning sunrise in Abu Dhabi 19/06/2019

It has officially been one week since landing in Abu Dhabi and starting this new journey of exploration. Since getting here, every day has been hotter than the day before. This is a trend that is expected to continue though the summer, and as of yesterday we finally hit 101.

With this extreme heat, efficiency of appliances is very important here. From the air conditioning to the escalators.

I have spent the last week observing these different machines and am absolutely fascinated every time I notice another little built in efficiency that I hadn’t noticed previously.

The first thing I noticed was the air conditioning.

I remember hot and humid summers as a little girl growing up in Pennsylvania. I remember our house being freezing cold, and then stepping outside into the summer sunshine and it being thick and hot, and then going inside an establishment and being blasted with cold air the minute you walked in (the “cold section” of the grocery store was always the worst!). There was never comfort, just two extremes; hot and cold. I never understood why people kept the temperatures so drastic… but I was a child, so I didn’t have a say in it, so I just had to deal (I had these kinds of feelings a lot as a child…perhaps that is what has made me so “controlling” as an adult).

Here, in Abu Dhabi, it is hot and, believe it or not, insanely HUMID (yeah, I thought the desert would be a dry heat too)!! Because of the intense hot weather here (and, if I’m being honest, probably because of the amount of money this country has), they have several appliances that are much more efficient than anything I ever saw in my travels before. Yes, you walk into a business and it’s cooler inside that business, but it’s not ridiculously cold. In fact, after a few cups of tea, one might even wish it was a tad bit cooler. They also do not have air conditioners blowing on high the second you walk into an establishment the way they do back in the USA. The air is circulated thru the buildings in a way that not once have I even felt my hair blowing in any kind of air conditioned breeze. Indoors is simply a nice, reasonable well circulated temperature.

Early Morning Humidity in Abu Dhabi

Also, outside they have air conditioning too! Back home in the USA every time I would sit outside in the summertime at a business they had these giant misters that they would turn on that would keep people cool by keeping them well misted with water. Here, they have a machine that is on wheels to keep it mobile and has a large filter on it to catch the water droplets. So they simply roll it to where they want it, plug it in and pour water into it and voila!! The machine blows out cool air instead of a wet mist because it blows through the filter. Nobody sits soggy.

The washer and dryer in our apartment is also amazingly efficient. First, it’s ONE unit!! One machine that does the washing AND the drying. It’s ideal to me for two reasons; 1. It doesn’t take up a lot of space, so even people with small spaces likely have room for one (back home in Oakland, California I live in a 650 sq. ft studio), and 2. There is a setting on the machine that will put the items into ‘dry’ mode immediately following the ‘wash’ mode, so no soggy mildew smelling clothes if you get distracted during your laundry time! Genius.

Dual Washer and Dryer!
Wash&Dry functions

The kitchen also has a gadget that I think is awesome!!! It’s a conventional oven that is built into the cabinet (I love when appliances don’t take up counter-top space), and it has a setting that turns the conventional oven into a microwave!!!! Never in my life have I seen a multi-use appliance like this! I have, instead, gone into many homes over the years and noticed how many appliances people have. Usually they have a microwave, a conventional oven and a toaster (the list goes on and on and on when it comes to appliances Americans “must have”) resulting in cluttered counter-tops and/or cabinets. This is a single appliance that can toast your morning bread, heat up last nights dinner leftovers for lunch, and cook a casserole for dinner! It’s awesome!!!

Conventional oven and Microwave

It also really makes me wonder what else can be created that can have multi purpose….

Malls are very popular here in Abu Dhabi. While they do have services for delivery (Uber Eats and Amazon.com to name two that are likely familiar to most of you) like we do in the USA, as well as online shopping available from all major retail stores, their malls are thriving here unlike ours. Back in the USA our malls are now mostly closed store fronts and empty parking lots, but here, its totally different. It is a place to gather, socialize, eat, pray, and shop. They have prayer rooms all over the mall so no matter where someone is, when the clock strikes at a prayer time, they can go.

Lunchtime at Yas Mall

So here we are, in the middle of the desert, with these giant malls. How is that efficient, you might wonder. Well, here is the thing; The temperature, as I mentioned above, is cool and well circulated. Also there is very little need for artificial lighting because there are so many skylight style openings in the roof that allow the sun to light up the walkways (the lights are on sensors for gloomy days), the escalator even has a sensor on it that (get this!!) slows down to nearly a crawl when it’s not being used, and speeds up when someone is about to walk onto the escalator. I literally sat on a bench and watched this process with pure excitement for way to long…

There are also many other efficient things that they do here in the UAE that I have not seen in my previous experiences, and I will continue to observe and share with you as I can.

For now, It’s 1:30 in the afternoon and I just got back from the gym so I’m going to throw on my swimsuit and walk over to Yas Beach with a friend I met a few days ago. It will be both of our first times vising the beach despite the fact that I have been living here for one week, and they have been living here for ten years!!

Be happy. Be well.

Sarah

The journey begins!

The plane has landed and the journey shall now begin!

Before my departure, many of my friends asked me why I would want to travel to the Middle East. They were likely asking because, like I once thought, they were under the impression that the entire Middle East is a war zone. After I was approached by my brother with the opportunity to live in Abu Dhabi with them for a three month period, I began doing some research. I quickly discovered that not only is Abu Dhabi a young city, it is also a safe city, in fact, the safest city in the Middle East for women.

The trip from D.C. to Abu Dhabi was surprisingly easy considering I was traveling with two adults and their two small children (Ages 22 months and 6 years). We flew Etihad Airways. Our plane was an 787-9 Dreamliner, which was very large and quite comfortable. The customer service was excellent and the on board entertainment was sufficient enough to keep even the antsiest of kids entertained for hours. They also served us three complete meals which were tasty and relatively healthy.

When we arrived at the airport in Abu Dhabi, getting thru customs was the easiest experience ever. 1st, there were no lines, and 2nd, the customs consisted of showing your passport and visa to get stamped, and then getting your photo taken for facial recognition (they have one of the most advanced biometrics systems in the world). That was it! We collected all 10 of our bags from the baggage claim, walked outside to where the taxi’s were, the driver loaded up our bags, and we headed to the hotel.

When we arrived to the hotel it was just about 9pm, and the entire family was exhausted from the long day of travel. All any of us wanted to do was lay down and get some serious sleep. Of course though, once we walked through the hotel doors, we got excited and stimulated all over again.

If you’ve ever been to or looked up anything about the city of Abu Dhabi, you would learn that everything here is elaborate and quite stimulating. This made going straight to bed quite difficult, so my brother and I decided to hit the gym to blow some steam while his wife got settled in to our new hotel home with the kiddos. After the gym we grabbed a snack outside at a neighboring hotel. Beside us sat three women in full hijab’s sitting back and enjoying a hookah.

(I can definitely get back into the hookah while I’m here!)

When we got back to the hotel room, I showered and went to bed excited about what the next few weeks would bring.

I slept with my blinds open, as I often do, so that I can be woken up by the rising of the sun. When I woke up to the sun rise this morning, I felt surprisingly refreshed and ready to start the day. It was just past 6am.

After about an hour I heard my nephew rustling around in the other room, so I opened my door to let him in so he and I could begin to enjoy the morning together. We hung out on the patio until my nephew looked at me and said, “Sarah, can we go back inside? It’s too stinkin’ hot out here” (😆). We then played some games that only a child with his imagination could ever think up, and then decided that since the rest of the family was still sleeping, we would take off to the lobby for breakfast. When we returned to the room the rest of the family was starting to get up and get ready to head out and explore on our first family mission; the grocery store.

We boarded the bus to Yas Mall where the closest supermarket is, and headed off.

Again, the efficiency of this place floored us.

1st outing in Abu Dhabi- Destination, Yas Mall

At current, we’ve all arrived back to the hotel and the kiddos and their momma are taking a much needed nap (surprisingly there were no meltdowns while we were out).

Once they awake, we’re off to the pool!! It’s currently only (yes, only) 95 degrees F outside, so we want to make sure we take advantage of the outdoors while it’s still bearable to do so!

Be Happy. Be Well.

Preparing for flight

In just over 24 hours I’ll be boarding a plane in Washington D.C.. I was lucky enough to get a direct flight from D.C. to Abu Dhabi. The flight itself is just over 13 hours, although with the time zone change, i’ll be boarding at 9:50pm on Tuesday and arriving at 7pm on Wednesday.

I have never been on a plane for more than 5 hours, nor have I ever eaten a complimentary breakfast, lunch, or dinner in flight. I also don’t think I have ever sat still for that long in my entire life.

I bid farewell to the last of my friends from my hometown of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania that I was able to catch up with last night, and will bid farewell to my family in about an hour.

My heart is warm with encouragement and love, and my brain is bursting with anxiety of both excitement and fear.

Cheers to what will surely be one hell of an adventure!!

Be well. Be happy.

Mexico

Taking a journey to a new and far away place is not easy for anyone. But some people never give themselves the freedom to spread their wings and fly.

The first time I opened my wings to a foreign land, it was 2014 and I went to Mexico. I had been working for an Insurance Broker in San Francisco, California, but was beginning to feel stagnant. I had a conversation with my boss at the time, and she told me that when she was my age she was in the middle of a divorce and that her parents had encouraged her to travel Europe for six months.

She never went.

She was now in her 50’s and it was still a life regret of hers.

She looked me in the eyes and told me that if I really want to quit my job and travel, that now is the best time to do it. I went back to my desk, typed up my resignation letter, researched for an apartment in Isla Mujeres on Craig’s List and bought a one way ticket to Cancun, Mexico.

Over the next few days I was in correspondance with a woman in Mexico regarding the furnished apartment I wanted to rent from her for what I thought would be three months. After consistently insisting that I wire her a large sum of money for the apartment before I get there, I began to have a few reservations in my mind on the legitimacy of the whole transaction. I asked around to friends for advise who also felt that it was likely a scam and that I shouldn’t send any money.

I kept with my mantra that most people are good, and I wired her the money she asked for.

A few weeks later I was saying goodbye to my friends and jumping on a plane to Cancun with my final destination being a small island off the coast of Cancun called Isla Mujeres.

When I arrived on the island of Isla Mueres, there was a man waiting for me with a cart. The woman I was renting the apartment from had sent him to meet me so he could show me to the apartment and hand me the keys. He put my luggage in his cart, and we began to walk. As we walked to the apartment he pointed out several places to eat and drink, and told me which beaches were the best beaches on the whole island.

He showed me to the apartment and when he opened the door, it was exactly as it had appeared in the photos. I was extreamly relieved. The guy handed me the keys, and told me about a blues bar down the street that I was supposed to go to if I wanted to get a job. He said the woman who owned my apartment also owned two bars on the island and would put me to work if I thought I might want to extend my stay past 3 months.

I dropped my bags and headed over to the blues bar. I met a man who seemed to be managing it and told him my name was Sarah and that I had been told to come see him. He introduced himself as Mario, and then he gave me 40 pesos and asked me to run to the tienda to get some limes. I had just started my first job in Mexico.

Over the next several months I built many valuable relationships with both locals and tourists on that paradise island, and eventually left the island to explore other parts of Mexico. I traveled by bus from Cancun, Quintana Roo to Merida, Yucatan and back. Then I flew to Villahermosa, Tabasco and took a bus to Tuxtia Gutererrez, Chiapas. I spent several days visiting different Mayan ruins, learning about the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, and hearing and seeing howling monkey’s. After about a week and a half there I took a bus to Oaxaca, Oaxaca and met an amazing couple who eventually took me into their home so that I could stay as long as I wanted without having to pay for a hostel. I fell in love with Oaxaca (and mezcal) and stayed for about two weeks. As my funds began to dwindle, I bought a ticket from Mexico City to San Francisco and promised myself I’d somehow make it to Mexico City before heading home, and I did. It was a very long bus ride, but after arriving in Mexico City I had about six days to explore Mexico City before my flight home.

All along the way I made friends and met people who were more than willing to give me advise on places to see, eat, drink, and dance the night away. I met people who provided me valuable knowledge to keep my journey going by providing me information on how to travel though Mexico most cost effectively. I even met people who took me into their homes and graciously fed me some of their favorite traditional (and non traditional) meals; and for all of that, I am forever thankful.

Despite what the media tells us, and what some people in our government try to feed us; Mexico is an amazing country with a beautiful culture and filled with absolutely kind and generous people.

By the time I returned back to San Francisco, I had been gone for 13 months and taken two trips out of Mexico to get my passport stamped. Through all of that time I felt welcome and comfortable around the native people.

I returned back to San Francisco with next to nothing, and so I began another journey, this time in my home city, of putting my life back together.