So one of the advantages of living in the ME is being able to leave the ME on a regular basis. There are plenty of opportunities for travel in the ME, and lots of vacation time. So we tend to leave the sand bucket every chance we get.
Any excuse works. School vacation, work bonus, exhaustion, birthday, itchy butt; any reason is reason enough to leave.
Which explains why I've been away from my blog for a bit. We're on vacation. Away from the heat, away from the sand, away from the traffic, away from constant fibre optic connectivity, away from the craziness. We are away from the ME!
We are safely ensconced in a snowed-in skiing village located 1600 m in the Alps. No cars, no nightlife, no noise, no sand, no work woes or worries. Just snow, skiing, skating, hiking, tobogganing, swimming at the community center, reading, afternoon snoozes, evenings sipping merlot by firelight, playing Frustration, enjoying good, hearty, "porky" meals.
The irony in the bliss of this escape is that it is a direct result of "suffering" in the sand. Living in Canada, we had the opportunity to travel to exotic locations, but those were mostly limited to the Carribean and likely to happen once a year at best. Living in the ME, we are guaranteed a minimum of three, and up to five, wonderful vacations a year. We can go to Europe, the Far East, or anywhere we choose. It is all accessible. All it takes is a Google search, interest, and the click of a button to book a dream holiday.
It sounds excessive, but it's not really. It's a necessary balm if you are to survive the agonizing monotony of life in the desert. That is, if you are going to survive with all senses and sanity intact. We do know people who came to the ME with the express purpose of saving money and nothing else. Most did not fare well. Westerners just do not fare well for long periods in the dust. We start to mummify. Even a small escape to a fresher climate moistens our lungs and our souls. And we return to the sand, and for a little while at least, we are able to breathe.
It is hard for a non-expat to fathom the frustration that comes with the blessings of these travel opportunities. Seen from the outside, I would see little reason to feel any vexation about these glorious escapades. But from the inside, every ME expat I know will tell you that the glorious escapades are a trade-off; perhaps not for our soul, but at least for day-to-day normalcy. 302 days of dust and heat and boredom and rote in exchange for 63 days of everything we'd ever dreamed of (as long as we've planned it out right,). It all comes back to push and pull; knowing the price you are paying for your escape and wondering if the trade-off is truly worth it.
I don't have the writing skills to explain the beauty of stepping off a plane and breathing in cool, crisp, fresh air. To sense anew as though through a child's eyes the beauty of autumn leaves in all their fiery splendour, the smell of fresh-cut grass, the sound of a lawn mower, the feel of a mountain path under your feet as you run up a hill. To taste a snowflake, feel raindrops on your face, have your cheeks tingle from the cold.
They are little, little things. But in the ME, they don't exist. And so they become huge, wondrous, amazing, glorious. And I miss them. So much.
And those little huge things, or the lack of little huge things, become the reason we have to get away. Away from the sand, away from the beige, away from the dust, away from the ME.