Now that we’re living and working offshore, it’s always nice to keep up with how things are going at home in our absence. Our neighbour runs his cattle over to graze our property and so animals are still a presence at our place. And it’s great to get photos of what people are doing. Number 2 Son recently sent us some snaps of his toddler son. A year ago before we left NZ, Himself read and re-read the story to our grandson about a black and white cow. This children’s story is based on a real life situation that happened a few years ago in New Zealand. The storybook has become battered as do children’s favourite things but evidently the reading habit has stuck – as grandson shows his moo(ve)s. He is holding one toy cow from his farm animals toy collection that he’s had since he was two years old.
One year on, and it’s nearly Christmas Day with an e-motional shift. Himself and I are experiencing the reality of an e-Christmas. E-cards. Ex-pat gatherings. Ever-so-far away from home. E-gifts. One year ago, we blithely enjoyed precious time with our sons and their families and with our extended families. Time and distance soon puts the importance of loved ones into perspective. We are not alone in being far from home. We talk about how both our late parents always kept open-house and how there were always extra people at their tables. We are experiencing similar hospitality, a warmth and generosity of spirit from people in the UAE.
Displays of Xmas trees and decorations in the malls tell us a certain festive day is happening. This is not that long after the Eid Adhar and National Day holiday celebrations. People here know how to rejoice and how to party. So as ex-pats, we will get together with others as a blended Kiwi family for the day. We’ll top up our mobiles for those long-distance calls. I remember how my English-born mother in the 1950s had to book an international toll-call days in advance with the local manual telephone exchange to phone her mother, brothers and sister at Christmas. And there were time constraints on international calls and because we were on a rural party-line. Never enough time to say the things that ought to be said to loved ones. Always tears. Always reaching across the miles to touch the other in some way. Now, it is technically so much easier for Himself and I to connect with our families while living in another country. Yet, I am experiencing that same reaching out to those I write messages on the e-cards for.
That’s the heart of the matter. The head, meanwhile, remains focussed on work. A few days ago, getting to work took on a whole new meaning. Rain. It rained in the UAE. And it rained day and night. Water spilled over the streets and into buildings. Water with nowhere to go. I think of it as nature’s way of giving this dry, dusty sandy city a wash. Before I came here, I’d never imagined that it could rain like this in the desert. I’m told the flows of water are spectacular in the wadis in the Hafeet Mountain Range. It’s all go in this part of the world.
I’ve changed my mind. In January, I mentioned My Garden blog was to go on the back-burner because Himself and I were leaving NZ to live and work offshore for a while. I thought it seemed easy enough to set up a travel blog and guessed I’d get organised eventually. Well, that was then. Now that we are here in the Middle East, the contrast to the lifestyle we’ve left is remarkable. Work – yes, that’s happening. Travel – yes, that’s happening. Gardening – no, that’s not happening. So how can My Garden be my travel blog? Simple. I realised that as we travel about, I see how other people grow plants and enjoy public park gardens. When I’m shopping, I talk with sellers at the souq about fruits and herbs I’m not familiar with. When I read the local paper, I read about environmental projects. When I’m at work, I chat with Emirati colleagues about their use of different foods in cooking. Always interested to explore and try Arabic flavours. Himself and I just love Arabic coffee with cardamom and saffron. Always, the coffee is served with warmest smile and most gracious hospitality.
I am learning how UAE and Omani desert ecologies – oases, wadis, mountains and coastal areas teem with life. The oases support farming but not in ways as I know it. Date cultivation and the historical importance of the uses of this fruit fascinates me. Ancient falaj systems in Al Ain, still in use thousands of years later, are an amazing reminder of human efforts to irrigate gardens. On a recent trip to Oman, I learned that apricots and pomegranates are grown in Oman. I love pomegranate juice – it’s my new social drink. I’m in for a long lesson about agriculture and gardening in this part of the world. I applaud my Emirati neighbours who cultivate tomatoes, herbs and small stuff in pots without abundant water. They are gardening heroes. I think to myself, how well would I garden if I had to irrigate, if I had to cope with sand storms, if I had to garden in pots in a courtyard behind walls, if I had to cope with extreme high temperatures?
Flicking back over posts interested me. Number 2 Son who has taken over my garden in NZ doesn’t know how lucky he is with water in abundance (albeit too much at times), soil (though it’s clay) that has nutrients for growing plants and trees that thrive in NZ’s sub-tropical climate. I know the garden back home is on good hands. Yes, I miss Pushy the lazy tabby cat (he can dig his claws into someone else for a change). Yes, I missed the daffodils cheerful appearance in August and the roses flowering in October. Yes, I am missing the pohutukawa coming into its pre-christmas bloom. I did not miss the floods and the spring storms. I did not miss the rapid, rampant spring grass growth. However, we asked someone to mow the lawns (there’s lots of grass at our place) weekly and keep the roses pruned – Number 2 Son works, has his hands full with three sons, maintains the vegetable patch but he doesn’t ‘do’ roses. I noted several viewers have left comments – I had not anticipated this ongoing interest in January, so I will try to reply. Over time, I’ll evolve this blog into a gardening travelogue of sorts. I’ve been interested to see gardening sections in some local shops. But, I’m not tempted. I’ve chosen not to grow plants in pots. I’d rather get out and about – that’s why I’m here.