Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Well, Friends of the Blog, the holidays have slowed down my posting frequency. I hope you'll understand, and I'll try to illustrate my reasons with pictures if possible.

Christmas is an interesting affair here in the UAE. The malls and big stores are onboard with the holiday 100 percent--hey, it's another reason to spend money! The halls are all decked with boughs of fake holly, massive Christmas trees are erected, banners are hung from the rafters with care, and so on. The mall next to our current hotel digs even had a Santa, and there was always at least a small line of kids waiting to have their picture taken and tell him all about that Red Ryder BB gun they really, really wanted.

But of course, when you're 7,500 miles from home, there is still one crucial thing missing: family. (and snow, if you're into that kind of thing) No long table laden with turkey, no bowl games--yeah, even the crappy pre-New Year's games--no pretending that pair of socks from Aunt Doris really IS the most exciting gift anyone has ever received.

Although I do love a good pair of socks. I have big feet. But anyway.

When you're an expat, you have to make do. You're in unusual surroundings… do something unusual! So naturally we all planned a bowling party in honor of Jesus' birthday at the only alley in town that serves beer. And, as luck would have it, they catered in a turkey dinner too. Win-win-win. What about presents? you ask. Well, we also did a draw-a-number-and-pick-a-gift Secret Santa. That's how I wound up with this lovely ceramic coffee cup:

I love coffee and I love my name. Perfect!

Christmas weekend in general was pretty amazing, too. We had a fantastic brunch on the 23rd that ended up at one of the new beach clubs on Abu Dhabi's newest and betest island, Saadiyat. Saadiyat means "happiness," by the way, and although I have strong suspicions (sorry, Sheikh Mo) that most of its grand plans won't amount to anything, you can see why sitting on a beach out there might make a guy happy:

The sun sets on my last December 23 ever in the UAE.

Christmas Eve was another great get-together at another friend's house, filled with food, fun and Doyle-made Brandy Alexanders. There were Christmas crackers…

Filled with bad jokes and a crown.

… and fond holiday wishes. Also a fair amount of conversation about the caption to the sunset photo.

After nearly three years here, we're leaving the UAE. The National has led us to some tremendous experiences, and we have gotten to explore a region that most people we know will never visit. Fjords in Oman, cave dwellings in Turkey, pyramids in Egypt, ancient cities in Jordan--the list of once-in-a-lifetime type moments is long.

But we're ready to leave desert life, despite some really amazing winters (just LOOK at that sunset photo), behind. So in January, we're hopping a flight to Hong Kong. It's bigger, it's greener and perhaps most important, it's where my next job is, as an editor at what most people consider the leading international newspaper in the world. The move heralds another fascinating step in our lives since I left the Tribune.

Both Mrs. Blog and I are excited about seeing what Hong Kong, China and greater Asia have to offer. Just being in reach of amazing dim sum is enough to bring a smile to my face. There are going to be challenges--it is a tremendously crowded region, and Hong Kong is 95 percent Chinese, meaning there is a much higher language barrier than we're used to--but overcoming them will, I think, be part of the fun.

It will be sad to say goodbye to the good friends we have made here. But moving to Hong Kong means our new year is starting out with a bang--just the way the Chinese like it.

Here's to your 2012 getting off to a colorful, exciting, amazing start. Happy New Year!

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