Wrapping Things Up

“One of the fascinating things about humans is that, in contrast to stones and to water and to earth and to fields, they seem to be privileged and burdened with the ability to think.” – John O’Donohue

The sighting of the Suhail star on the 24th of August marked the start of the old drour agricultural calendar people in this part of the world used in the past to structure their lives. It functioned as a sort of harbinger of cooler weather to come, as well as signaling a variety of seasonal activities either coming to an end, or about to start.

The pearling boats would return from the pearl banks after a three month absence, reuniting families, but it was also a signal for falconers that the migratory season for birds of prey were about to begin, as well as the start of date palm polination.

This year, it also served as a marker for a transitiory period in my life. After 9 years in the UAE, I am getting ready to say my final goodbyes before embarking on new adventures in Portugal, where we’ve rebuilt a small stone ruin over the last 3 years.

The last couple of months were spent mostly on paperwork, packing, sorting, more packing, more sorting. All interspersed with moments of anxiety. Apart from the fact that we are not moving with a container, and that our stone house falls in the tiny house category, I also want to minimize the stuff I have. I don’t aspire to a minimalist lifestyle, but at the same time, I also do not want to be weighed down by anything I don’t need. Needless to say, the process is far from easy or pleasurable, as my husband will be staying on in Abu Dhabi until the end of 2021 when his work contract expires. The plan is that he will bring our treasured items and books bit by bit next year, and so my biggest challenge is to pack those items in boxes before I leave early October.

To motivate myself through these anxious moments of over-thinking, I’ve listened to podcasts, immersed myself in various online workshops (the last of which I’ll finish in a week’s time) and read a lot.

One of my favourite books, that helped me through this transitiory period in my life, is Turn Left at Lenin’s Statue by Fabrizio Sogetto. It is a wonderful tribute to Central Asia – its history, people, and landscapes. Part travelogue, part chronicle, it describes a corner of the world not many people are familiar with, let alone travel to. It was the perfect book to read in a time when actual physical travel was, and still is, either impossible or difficult.

It begins and ends in Almaty, Khazakhstan, but in between, the stories that connect the array of diverse places in this vast landscape, and were collected over many visits, delight and enlighten. The descriptions of the environment and people, both locals and travellers, are vivid and engaging, and it is a wonderful introduction to the complexities of the various countries that make up that corner of the world. So if you miss travelling, do yourself a favour, and travel through the pages of this book.

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