~Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Tonight my Husband and I walked through the cold, rainy streets of Helsinki. My floor-length jean skirt was soaked at the hem and its rough texture whipped the tops of my chapped feet with every step. The masochist in me enjoyed that. ;-)
Over the past week, we have enjoyed a "working holiday" in Scandinavia. The Eid holiday back home in the Middle East gave my Husband a great opportunity to attend a "nerd conference" in Finland and me the opportunity to enjoy the Autumn season in all of its splendour! How I have loved taking walks around the city's famous esplanade, enjoying the cool, crisp air. The colours, too-- how magnificent! Historical architecture, cobblestone streets, the adorable green trams, music from the various street performers, the apple harvest... How I have loved it all!
Each day, near the end of my Husband's conference talks, I would venture across the city and hole up in the little coffee house next door. What a pleasure it was to curl up with a cappuccino, some gluten-free treat, and a good book! The best part of all? My Husband strolling through the front door with that tender, loving smile of his on his face.
Tomorrow morning, my Husband and I venture back to our home in the Middle East. How strange it seems, going from the now winter-ish weather of Scandinavia to the summer climate of Arabia! How different the land, the history, the culture, and the cuisine. Yet we have managed to carve out a little niche for ourselves, and we look forward to be going home.
I regret that it has been a long time since my last blog post. Since my Husband and I moved in July, we have been busy with a myriad of legalization paperwork, household projects, and growing acclimated to our new environment. Slowly, it has all come together. What a blessing!
When we first arrived, the weather was excruciatingly hot and humid. We were given temporary housing by the university. The morning after my Husband and I arrived-- exhausted and jet-lagged from our 13-hour flight, we attended an orientation. Since we had been told that there would be no more available faculty housing, we spent the next several hours with an agent trying to find a flat within our housing allowance budget. All of this was in vain, however. My Husband received word shortly thereafter that we--unbeknownst to us-- had been given a spacious, three-bedroom house in the university-acquired building after all!
One look at our new home and our jaws dropped. My mind was whirling! How would we fill up such large, cavernous rooms on our furnishing allowance? How was I going to manage to keep up a 250 sq. meter / 2,500 square ft. home? Especially one in a dusty, desert climate that lacked carpeting? Why was the washing machine in the kitchen, but the dryer in the "Maid's Room?" Did we really even need a maid's room? Last, were the bedets in every bathroom truly necessary?
My Husband and I had not yet purchased a car. The majority of our furniture shopping was spent walking from store to store, hauling back odds and ends via taxi. Thankfully, the big furniture purchases would be delivered within a week or two. While we waited--and it seemed that our first month or two was spent with the maxim, "hurrying up to wait"-- my Husband finished his residency requirements, set up his faculty office, and began planning for his upcoming courses.
In August, we spent a few weeks in the mountains of Lebanon. My Husband's cousin was getting married, and it was a big to-do! For the first time in forty years, my father-in-law and all of his siblings were together in their ancestral home. It was a blessing, but also a painful one. My Husband and I stepped into the tiny kitchen where, a couple of years before, Sitto and I would fight each other (good naturally!) about who would wash dishes after a meal. I remembered my cooking lessons from her. Sitto didn't speak more than a handful of words in English. I didn't speak more than that, myself, in Arabic. Yet somehow she taught me how to make Lebanese dishes and I diligently wrote down her recipes in a journal. Remembering all of this, I held my Husband and we cried together. Our trip to Lebanon was precious, if not a little bittersweet.
Life in the Middle East continues to be an adventure! We live in a country where every day is sunny and beautiful. It almost never rains. Only recently has it become "beach weather" and I very much look forward to spending time at a segregated "women's beach!" My Husband and I live on nearly the 40th floor of the university-affiliated skyscraper building with floor-to-ceiling windows, in a corner unit that has amazing views of the expansive city, aquamarine waters, and neighboring islands. In the daytime it is stunning and, at night, the lights are breathtaking!
Our furniture is a mix of modern, traditional, and as least "gaudy" as we could manage. The trend here really is more towards the gaudy-- anything that sparkles, glitters, or incorporates every colour of the rainbow. Admittedly, our bedroom furniture looks like something out of Disney's Aladdin or the inside of Jeannie's bottle in the bygone sitcom, "I Dream of Jeannie."
One of the happiest days of all was the evening our beloved cat, Pepper, finally arrived at our doorstep. It had taken weeks beyond schedule to get him half-way across the world, for the required medical tests and paperwork were changing or geting delayed. At long last, however, the pet relocation company picked Pepper up from his vacation at my in-laws' home and, two days later, delivered him to our flat in a pet "cargo crate." Pepper blinked, meowed, and then stepped out of his carrier to explore the palace in which he, at least in his mind, is the King of Persia. I held my furry baby and sobbed my heart out for joy. Our house was finally a home!
Pepper, however, soon learned that he was not alone. He was curious about the new cat in the home. To this day, he isn't quite sure what to make of his new sister!
Our new cat, Will--short for Wilhelmina, it turns out-- actually found us. My Husband and I walked out of church one evening to where our rental car was parked. From some distance away, we stopped short in our tracks. There was a black and white cat lounging on top of our vehicle, happily licking away! My beloved and I looked at one another, then tried to figure out how to proceed from there. Our city's animal control department had long since closed for the evening.
The stray cat was not afraid of us, although she was clearly not anyone's pet. She had no collar, she was frightfully thin (as most of the wild or feral cats in the region are), she had deep scars on her little back that had long since been put there, she had a part of one of her ears torn, and she proudly sported a rather painfully crooked tail. Otherwise, the feline appeared to be healthy. Slowly, we approached her. She came to us happily, wanting to be petted and loved. When my Husband opened the back door of the car to put something away, the little black and white "Oreo" cat hopped right in!
To make a long story short, we brought Will home for the night. One night became forever. No one called to claim Will or to report her missing. My Husband and I took her to the veterinary clinic for shots and to be "fixed." Will, our little girl, as it turned out (we initially thought she was a boy), is a tomboy, through and though, but she is one happy cat! An endless supply of food, cold water, toys, and loving hands to hold and pet her has turned another needy little stray into a cherished part of our family. Will is far less "vocal" than Pepper... She is still a little skittish, but she loves to come and curl up next to us as she falls asleep and snores. She snores like a human! But her little head often rests on our arms or legs. What precious, lovable cats we have been blessed with!
One more day; then my Husband and I shall return to them-- and to life as we know it! Our holiday to Finland was a blessing, but I look forward to being once again be the obedient, happy homemaker of the household ruled by my Husband, the supportive professor's wife at public functions, and the ever-diligent online university student wherever there is coffee and free wifi!
As for Domestic Discipline in our marriage, it is nearly back in "full swing"-- if you will pardon the pun. Life circumstances had necessitated a period of its absence. Nevertheless, my Husband and I have now settled into our new lives abroad and are closer with one another than ever before. Slowly, the items we brought over in our suitcases-- implements, restraints, and other helpful tools-- are coming once more to see the light of day. ;-)
In the future, I hope to write fairly often. There are so many beautiful things to share-- both the experiences of everyday life and little insights. Please remember those of us who are in the Middle East in your prayers, and know that you shall remain in mine.
With much love,
P.S. Yes, the photograph included in this post is of our two darling cats. On the left is Will. On the right, trying to figure her out, is Pepper. :-)