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. 🙂