The automatic doors whooshed open, and I stepped out into the night. The air was indeed cooler, a lovely 73 degrees, and the humidity had thankfully dropped as well. Palm trees were silouetted in the airport lights.
I was glad the limo driver didn't want to talk. I was tired - exhausted in fact - and I wanted nothing more than to ride into the city in silence. The main road from the airport is always well lit, but now regularly interspersed along the median were sparkly decorations with Arabic lettering and large number 42's. The buildings lining the road were draped with lights in the colors of the U.A.E. flag. I had read the "Gulf News" paper en route from Frankfurt and knew early next week is National Day, this country's version of our Fourth of July. The country was founded forty two years ago, the same year I graduated from high school, and Abu Dhabi, the capital of the U.A.E. is all decked out for the anniversary celebration.
These decorations are outside my door at Sama, but they are identical to the ones I saw along the highway on my way from the airport. The falcon imagery or symbol is everywhere, kind of like our American Bald Eagle.
The driver deposited me in front of Sama Tower, and I dug out my NYU ID card so I could pass by security. Once in the elevator I paused before punching level 23. What was my apartment number? I was only in Sama one week before leaving for the States, and now a solid month had passed and I was so, so tired.
Thankfully Doug opened the door at my slightly hesitant knock, and I stepped into the place I would now call home for the next ten months or so. It was familiar, yet at the same time it was new to me again. Doug had gotten some snacks for me: grape leaves, fresh hummus and pita, and a variety of dates and little cakes, but I wasn't hungry. I was so woozy with fatigue that all I could think about was crawling into bed and falling into a deep sleep.
Why is it that sometimes when we are at our most tired, sleep eludes us? I lay in bed, and my mind wouldn't stop. As if my trip over were not long enough, I had to play it over again in my head. I thought about my dad in Maryland and my friends in Hoboken. As the sky lightened almost imperceptibly, I heard the morning Call to Worship. I looked at my bedside clock: 5:25 a.m. It wasn't till around 7:00 a.m. that I finally dozed off, and four hours later I was awake once more.
"You better get up now or else you'll be awake again tonight" I told myself.
But I couldn't move. I lay in bed for several minutes before finally crawling out from under the duvet. I stumbled around the apartment, wandering randomly. There was the suitcase sitting open on the floor, my clothes spilling out of it. I pulled out some things and then walked to my closet and stared at the drawers, trying to remember where I'd put things.
"What's the matter with me? Why can't I remember things? Why am I so foggy?" I chided myself.
As I moved slowly about the apartment my head began to clear. I looked out the windows which had been cleaned on the outside during my absence and observed that with the cooler, dryer air my view had expanded. Whereas before the Arabian Gulf and sky blurred together just beyond the skyline, now the Gulf extended far into the distance. The Emirates Palace, barely visible through the humid haze a month ago, seemed so close I could reach out and touch it.
I heard the roar of an approaching jet, but it was immediately obvious this was not a commerical aircraft. It was too close and too loud. I scanned the sky and a lone fighter tore into view, executing deft rolls, smoke trailing behind it. Then it did several loops and climbed high in the sky only to plunge straight down to the earth before leveling off and doing yet more rolls. I love air shows, and here was one just for me! I guessed this was a practice run before next week's National Day celebrations.
As I began to feel better and calmer I could hear my friend Roger's voice in my head. "Be kind to yourself, Kathi".
Yes, it's been a crazy few months. The abrupt move to Abu Dhabi and then back to the States only three weeks later to be followed by a month of non-stop work, moving my father from his house to a retirement community in Maryland. It's no wonder I felt exhausted and disoriented.
"Stop. Sit. (Or Stand!) But stop. Pause and ground yourself. Cut yourself a break. Don't beat yourself up. Be kind to yourself."
Postscript: I wrote this yesterday and am editing it now after an excellent night's sleep. I am already feeling SO much better. Abu Dhabi.... I am back!