The numbers to the left represent two years of traveling and writing while living abroad. In August of 2013, I moved to the United Arab Emirates. It is unimaginable all I’ve seen, everyone I’ve met, everywhere I’ve gone in such a short time. Other than the summer after my junior where I hit puberty and grew eight inches, I can think of no other time where I have had such drastic changes in such a small timespan.
With such blissful memories, I write my 100th blog post. I reflect back on the ridiculous, the remarkable, and the unremarkable but mildly entertaining moments of the last two years.
The start of my blogging career began with a quick post about counting down the days to Abu Dhabi, followed three weeks later by a photo.
I’m not quite sure what “and down” means but I’m almost positive it was appropriate. Either way, those two posts got the gears in motion. I took that Etihad Airways flight to a semi-remote area of the world different from anything I knew in the Unites States. I traded my steeples, crosses, and cows for mosques, crescent moons, and camels.
The UAE smacked me in the face. The first thing I remember was the heat. It was sweltering. After that however, I don’t remember much of the details. I wish I could rattle off a play-by-play of all that happened in those first few months, but my memory fails me. If you really want to know the details, feel free to check out one of my many journals. However, take caution, I am quite honest with myself. My wife found that out when she picked one up in late November of last year.
Journals have always been my way of processing. I grew up with eight older siblings in a very chaotic environment. Journaling was an outlet. It led quite fluidly into blogging when I moved abroad. Blogging allowed friends and family to stay up-to-date with my travels but it also offered me insight into the changes happening all around me.
I had left everything and everyone I knew behind. Being so far from all that comforted me forced me to delve deeper into myself, and deeper into my relationship with God. My blog was where I shared the external experiences, while my journals held the internal discussions of a man adjusting to a new life.
While I inwardly wrestled with questions on being a husband and a future father, I outwardly wrote about camels, and grand mosques, and daily observations. I planned ways to propose to my future wife, simultaneously dealing with frustrating foreign ovens and language barriers. I read about Islamic history while experiencing history in the making by being the only American on my Gaelic Football team. My mind traveled to far off lands of a married world (where I would be one of two people who were really one), as my body traveled to far off lands of Bahrain and Sri Lanka. Then I came home.
One of the advantages of teaching is that you have 1-2 months every summer to rest and reflect. You have a chance to re-charge your batteries and prepare for another battle. Coming back to Philadelphia after ten months away, gave me a chance to appreciate both worlds. It steadied my nerve as I left the U.S. once again and returned to the UAE, but this time I wasn’t alone… I was married.
Janae and I had gotten married on July 4th – “dependence” day. Now, it wasn’t me who had to adapt to my surroundings, it was her. My new challenge was helping my wife cope with the new country and the new man she woke up to every morning. Scary, I know.
I began to see a change in my thoughts, and consequently, in my blog posts. I began to think more empathetically. I wrote about hotel stays at the Ritz Carlton and date nights at the movies. My revelations centered on marriage and malls – the latter of which I avoided like the plague before getting hitched. What fascinates me most about that second year in Abu Dhabi was how much more I did. I visited festivals, theme parks, restaurants, and zoos. It was clear… Marriage changes you.
Through it all, the regular became extraordinary, and the extraordinary became spectacular. Food had more flavor, friends felt closer, movies held greater insight – even one’s such as Fast and the Furious 7. Through work, I reached young minds. Through church, I was able to touch hearts. And through my writing I’ve reached people all over the world. From Nepal to Nicaragua, Peru to Portugal, China to Chile, Brazil to Bhutan, and even Jersey (the country, not the state – yes… it’s a country).
Looking back, the last two years have been full of love and peace. I have been graced with such blessings. Looking forward, I find such excitement knowing there is so much more in store for me, and for those that trust in the hope within. So I will end my 100th blog post with a blessing of my own for you.
May your funeral be a celebration,
A testimony of love.
May your pallbearers be many,
And may your coffin be made from a 100 year old oak,
They plant tomorrow.