Saturday, November 26, 2011

A moving experience

Well, Friends of the Blog, it's been a busy couple of weeks.

Usually I fall off the grid--and by that I mean Read Ink doesn't get updated--when I'm traveling. For about 10 days this month, that was my excuse, as Mrs. Blog and I headed to India for the wedding of two friends. This is the same couple whose nuptials took us to Dallas a few months back, a trip we enjoyed immensely, and not just because it involved huge amounts of barbecue and brisket tacos.

Nom nom nom, y'all.

This was the second time we had been to India, the first being two years ago when I first suggested to Mrs. Blog that she deserved an upgrade from Girlfriend of the Blog. That trip was memorable for a lot of reasons--the Taj Mahal at dawn, climbing through an ancient abandoned city, riding a rickshaw through one of the most crowded markets in the world--and I left so inundated with India that every time I closed my eyes for a few days afterwards, the swirling crowds appeared behind my eyelids. True story.

You would never find Waldo, ever.

This time was a little more sedate. We had a soft landing at one of our favorite hotels anywhere, The Imperial, then took on India from a different angle than our first trip. The sights had been seen, you see. So we focused on food. And, OK, fine, I'll admit it, shopping. The payoff was remarkable. Let me just say that if you ever find yourself in Delhi, go to Hauz Khas market and track down the Gray Garden and Yeti. Thank me later.

But India's real embrace came when we traveled to Siliguri, the bride's hometown, for the wedding. She and her family welcomed us (and several dozen other friends from Abu Dhabi) with a gusto and charm and warmth that you will see in few other parts of the world. They whisked us to our hotel. They ensured that we had delicious, spicy meals waiting whenever we turned around. They treated us like VIPs.

And what a remarkable family, too. The bride's parents, both doctors, have been involved for decades with treating those who society has neglected. We visited a community her father founded for people who had been stigmatized by leprosy--they themselves were healthy but the disease had struck their parents, leaving them outcasts. Through the bride's father's efforts, people who would otherwise have been begging in the streets were learning job skills; their children were attending school just steps from their front doors. That's what having an impact on society is all about. Everywhere around us were people whose lives were better because someone believed in them. It's not the sort of lesson you expect at a wedding. But it was a welcome one.

The wedding, of course, was an explosion of colors, sounds and lights, as Indian weddings are wont to be. It began with a marching band leading the procession through town and it ended with a 2,000-person reception at a water park outside town. There simply aren't enough superlatives to do it justice.

This is where you say, Hey, wait, Gerry--aren't pictures worth 1,000 words? And I reply, Yes, they are, and I haven't gotten them off our camera yet. Settle down. Pictures to come.

Suffice to say we arrived back in the UAE richer in spirit and with suitcases full of well-haggled Indian merchandise. Clothing, mostly. Including leather shoes that actually fit my feet.

But there was a cloud to all this glittering silver.

For reasons that are too boring and frustrating to explain, our apartment in Abu Dhabi went from being company-owned to owned-by-someone-else in a matter of days last month. The people living in the building had more or less six weeks to get out. And the deadline happened to be Friday, just a few days after we returned from India.

Rather than avail ourselves of the frustrating Abu Dhabi rental market (the linked story is old but still remarkably applicable), in which rent is paid for an entire year up front and a one-bedroom place in the good part of town can cost US$30,000, we decided to unload our furniture and move into a serviced apartment.

In a way, this was the perfect week for all of this to happen. Yes, it was scary and stressful to sell all our furniture, pack up and get out in a matter of four days while we both were working full-time. I cannot overstate how little sleep we got and how tired I got of people calling up to offer me one-third of my asking price without even bothering to see what they were buying.

Thanksgiving was Thursday, though, and Thursday was when we packed up and got out. Our Budget Building flat, with paint choices more colorful than probably any other apartment in Tanker Mai, is echoing and empty.

But I am full of thanks. Thankful for Mrs. Blog, who was always there to remind me to breathe when the move hit hardest. Thankful for our friends, who offered help in myriad ways. Thankful for a massive Thanksgiving spread at one of their houses (and for the poker tournament in which we finished in fourth place), and the heaping helpings of fellowship.

And thankful for the relaxing rooftop pool of our new building.

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