In twenty-thirteen, I:  Explored wadis and ruins and painted walls on Jebel Akhdar.  Watched my son Adam collect sand in his eyes as he rolled down sand dunes at a Bedouin camp.  Checked out the Arabian Sea from a watchtower in Sur.  Watched Adam juggle stones.  Swam through glowing aquamarine pools at Wadi Shab into a sunlit cave & applauded as the boys jumped off cliffs.   Kissed my 20- & 21-year-old sons good morning and good night at my flat in Oman like I used to when they were babies. Wore long flowing cotton skirts and Indian cotton tunics to work at my “university” job.  Stood long boring hours at too many “invigilations” at UNIZWA.  Stood along the perimeter of the cattle market at Nizwa souq as men in dishdasha paraded their cows and goats in a circle. Kissed camels with Mike and the boys in Oman.  Visited the massive Bahla fort that, until 2013, evaded restoration for 25 years due to mischievous jinn.  Escaped gunshots, with Mario, in Wadi Arbiyyin.  Watched a tree grow out of a sidewalk at Bimmah Sinkhole.  Photographed an Indian roller at wetlands near Al Amerat.  Enjoyed a Valentine’s Day buffet at the Sahab with Mona Lisa and Beg after an invigorating hike.  Searched in vain for the Persian steps on a 6 hour hike to nowhere on Jebel Akhdar. Drank at least 168 glasses of mango juice.  Had a “Brothers & Sisters” marathon session while sick in Oman.  Enjoyed the blooming roses on Jebel Akhdar and met a visiting Irish couple who read my blog in Ireland and recognized me drinking wine at the Sahab.  Saw tree-climbing goats at Misfat Al Abriyyin.  Watched warily as the British invaded my apartment building in Nizwa.  Sold my GMC Terrain to an Omani man.  Watched all three seasons of Downton Abbey and got hopelessly addicted. Shared oranges, dates and coffee with Mario, an Omani man and his sisters in Wadi Bani Kharous.  Saw the roses on Jebel Akhdar, again, and toasted with bubbly to Sandy and Malcolm, my two British friends. Survived a rare rainy day and floods on a sepia day in Nizwa.  Went seeking the moonrise with Mario amidst the painted rocks of Izki.  Shared Shang Thai with Tahira in Muscat.  Went in search of the “essence” of Muscat on a steamy 42 degree day.  Explored the ruins and gardens of Adam with Mario.Sold much of my “stuff” from my Nizwa flat, and shipped the remainder home.  Said goodbye to my friends in Oman (a nomad in the land of nizwa).

Said “Namaste,” head bowed and hands in prayer, to scores of Nepalese. Circled around Swayambhunath, a 5th century Buddhist stupa, also known as the Monkey Temple, in Kathmandu. Caught a glimpse of the kumari at Durbar Square. Ate momos overlooking the Boudha stupa.  Watched a cremation at Pashupatinath. Experienced load-shedding, and shivered constantly, in Pokhara. Met wildman Nepali actor Sagar Ansari on the shore of Phewa Tal. Drank an Everest beer at Moondance to the tune of “Oye Como Va.”  Ate pumpkin soup at Love Kush. Learned to say thank you in Nepalese: “Danyaybat.” Woke up to views of the Annapurna range for 3 mornings straight. Watched the sunrise with a group of Chinese tourists over snow-covered Fish-Tailed at Sarangkot. Hiked past terraced hills from Nagarkot to Changu Narayan. Read What I Loved and Arresting God in Kathmandu. Bought royal blue and purple yak wool blankets in Kathmandu’s narrow streets and alleys.  Bought an ornamented Hindu deity mask and a ruby ring and turquoise earrings and Thangka paintings. Listened to Tibetan Incantations in Thamel (catbird in south asia).

Fell in love with balconies, gelato and Spanish fans in Barcelona. Met Antoni Gaudí at Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Casa Batlló, & La Perdrera. Saw a futuristic fashion show where a model sported a Peter Pan outfit with what looked like a piece of Kraft Singles cheese tied around his waist.  Got lost on my way to Montserrat. Got lost in the streets of Toledo.  Ate Marzipan Delicia in Toledo. Fell in love with the cloisters at Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes. Admired tea roses at Alcázar of Toledo. Drove a Peugeot past giant bulls and windmill farms from Toledo to Malaga. Pretended to be Don Quixote at Consuegra’s windmills.  Bought tiered and colorful Spanish skirts in Barcelona and Andalucia. Enjoyed una cerveza with Aussies Carole & Barry in Ronda, Andalucia. Read Duende: A Journey Into the Heart of Flamenco and then listened to flamenco in Granada.  Read Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia.  Ate tapas in Seville and endured horrible heat in the Alcázar. Cried at the sight of the candy-cane Moorish arches at Cordoba’s Mezquita. Read Shadow of the Wind.  Ate fresh sardines at a chiringuito along the Mediterranean. Ate churros dipped in chocolate in Granada.  Sipped tinto de verano with Marianne from East of Malaga. Explored the white-washed village of Frigiliana with Marianne.

Had heart-to-heart talks on walks and over wine with Jo of restlessjo in Tavira, Portugal.  Went on a bird-watching boat tour.  Went postal with Jo in Tavira. Cried at the views from the Moorish Castle in Sintra, Portugal.  Enjoyed coffee & pastel de nata with Manuel and his wife in Sintra.  Listened to Fado and songs by Sutil, a band of Spanish boys, on the streets of Sintra. Learned how to say thank you in Portuguese: obrigado!  Got LOSTin Lisbon.  Climbed the Tower of Belem. Trekked up and down the hills of Alfama.  Saw the Atlantic Ocean from its eastern shore in Cascais (in search of a thousand cafés).

Flew from Lisbon via London back to Virginia. Got an iPhone. Got a black Toyota Corolla.  Got obsessed with Instagram. Perused antiques and LAUGH signs in Lucketts, Virginia.  Had a “Bad day in progress: Approach at your own Risk.”  Toured wineries of Charlottesville with my daughter Sarah. Returned to work at Northern Virginia Community College to find my classes overrun by Saudi students. Visited Annette from Beauty Along the Road in Monterey, Virginia. Saw leaves the colors of pomegranates, squash & pumpkins in Virginia’s mountains, for the first time in 4 years.  Collected colorful maple and oak leaves. Turned 58. Hiked through Douthat State Park & to Saint Mary’s Rock. Celebrated Thanksgiving with my sister, my father, my husband and my children, for the first time in 4 years.  Cooked southern grits, a Martha Stewart breakfast frittata, chicken & apple sausage patties, and pancakes with cranberry maple compote for my traditional Christmas brunch.  Got hooked on Ann Patchett.  Lost at Bananagrams, Oodles, and Scattergories. Read The Seamstress and dreamt of Spain. Decided to take off spring semester 2014.  Prepared for my trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco in January.

It’s been a year of adventure, sad goodbyes, upheaval, and readjustment to life in America.  It’s been a year of highs (my trips around Oman, through Spain, Portugal and Nepal) and lows (returning to work at the community college and dealing with reverse culture shock).  It’s been a year of reconnecting with family and completing travel writing courses and exploring my home region of Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.  Overall, twenty-thirteen has been a time of great change and many challenges.  I’m ready to settle in and FOCUS, to take solid steps to achieve a number of personal goals in twenty-fourteen. 🙂


28 thoughts on “twenty-thirteen

  1. gosh, I am breathless … a post to look at a few more times Cathy, a fabulous summary of the most unbelievable year of adventure! Wishing you all the very best for 2014, so glad to be in touch with you and share your journey through the blog.

  2. Loved this post! I can remember every blog you mentioned! So excited to see what 2014 has in store for you!!! You are awesome and I am sure with this positive focus you have set as your goal, you will scour heights not yet imagined personally as well as professionally! I am so proud to call you my friend!! Have a wonderful New Year celebration! THE BEST IS YET TO COME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    God bless you and thank you for being in my life!!!! x

    1. Thanks so much, Mona Lisa, and thanks for all your encouragement and kind words. I hope 2014 will be a good year, although I’m entering the year with a lot of trepidation. You’ll see why in my Resolutions post. I really do hope you’re right!! 🙂

  3. WOW, Cathy! What a remarkable year!! I wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR and all the best in 2014! Good luck on all your endeavors – I look forward to following along on all of them with you!

  4. Do you ever stay still and relax? What an incredible year you have had Cathy! I have enjoyed meeting you this year and hope to tag along on many adventures with you in 2014! As Mrs C said: Great post, great photos, great person.

    1. Haha, Jude, it seems like I don’t often stay still, although you’d be surprised how much I lie around reading books! My adventures for 2014 will be of a different sort altogether, as you’ll see from my Resolutions post (to come on Jan 1). I enter 2014 with some amount of trepidation, and excitement! 🙂

  5. And you said you were tired a week or so ago- I wonder why? 🙂 🙂
    The Mezquita I know to be awesome and you took some of the best photos I ever saw of it, Cathy. Katmandhu I really envy you.
    Onwards and upwards! Can’t wait to read that Jan 1 post. Does that mean what I think it does- he said yes?
    Very best of luck with whatever lies ahead, Cathy. I know you’ll succeed, and whatever happens I’ll be proud to call you my friend.

    1. Yes, Jo, he did say yes, and now I just need to be really disciplined and focused and use my time wisely. Thanks so much for your encouragement.

      I was so happy with my Mezquita photos, so I’m really glad you liked them. And Nepal sticks with me a lot even now, for some reason.

      I’m really happy to have met you this year and to call you a dear friend! Cheers and hugs to you, Jo! 🙂

  6. Cathy, what an amazing year you have had! I mean … really! This is a beautiful post, both photos and words. We highlighted this post in our Best of 2013 wrap-up. We have truly enjoyed getting to know you this year and can’t wait to see what you’ll be up to next year. Wishing you a very Happy New Year. 🙂 ~Terri & James

    1. Thanks so much for featuring this post on your blog! I tried to write a reply earlier when I saw it, but for some reason I didn’t seem to be able to do it. It was a great year and one I’ll cherish forever. In 2014, sadly, I may have to stay close to home. I’ll need to put my wanderlust in check, I’m afraid. Don’t know how I’ll do with that… I may just have to live vicariously through the two of you! Anyway, thanks so much for the mention, and have a wonderful new year! 🙂

  7. Wow – a truly eventful year. You are a world traveler, for sure. I loved looking at your pictures. In fact, they made me antsy and restless…there is so much to see in this amazing world of ours.
    I hope that 2014 will give you the chance to let it all sink in deeply, allowing things to simmer and bubble, melding all the flavors and spices from so many different experiences into one nourishing stew.
    All the best, Annette

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