17 January 2014

Until the Next Shiny Thing Distracts Me

Sometimes there are no stories to tell.

I haven't written a word for weeks. I've been ripping through nerdtastic fantasy novels and looking at my computer like it owed me an apology. I don't have a good reason. I wanted a break, I needed a break, a strange alchemy of goings-on told me to dork out and detox. Who knows?

When you're stuck in the mud, as I have been stuck, you have to force momentum. This might read like a wet sock dangling over toes or it might pop with the slurp-fart sound of boots pulled free. In either case it's necessary motion.

Before I got stuck I was spending most of my creative time working on a novel that is proving to be a challenge. I like what I've done, but what I've done has taken far longer than it should. Typically the blog helps to stoke the fires so over the holidays I started an entry entitled, "Christmas in the Land of Malls and Mosques." I didn't get very far because it was too many words and not enough story. On December 25th, 2013, I taught simple grammar to a bunch of nineteen year old Saudi dudes who care about Christmas about as much as Icelandic fishermen care about Cinco de Mayo. In the evening I got together with the other teachers and enjoyed a delicious potluck meal. Afterwards we watched Die Hard, because nothing says holiday spirit like "Yippee ki-yay motherfucker."

It has taken me months but I am finally figuring out how to live here. Compound life in the "Oasis" of Eastern Saudi Arabia is a lot like being grounded. We have all the toys; Internet, TV, a fridge full of snacks. We are spoiled. And like spoiled brats the things we want are the things we can't have. Which in my case is booze and chicks. I was too anti-social in the beginning. Not intentionally, I just figured there was nothing to do. But, recently things have been picking up. I've got a great group of friends here. If we weren't grounded we would be having the time of our lives. But we are learning to make do; Frisbee golf with holes that start on the roof, bad movie night, moonshine if the howling gets too strong. There is fun to be had. I just needed to remember that toys are nice, but even a hole in the sand can be fun if you let it. 

I figured it out just in time because contract renewals are coming up. If I'm offered the gig, I'll take it. If you strip away the location and any frustrations I have about being grounded, this is the best teaching gig I've had. And it is obvious that my students are gaining language skills and worldliness under my expert tutelage. Check out this pearl of wisdom from last week's writing assignment: 

Alright, alright so I've still got some work to do. A good job (not yet finished) + better living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Why not stay on?

Speaking of things getting better...

I don't have to work next week so I'm escaping to Bahrain and Qatar. I have another break in mid-February and I'm thinking Africa. I have another break in March and I'm going to Jordan to meet up with a friend I haven't seen since my first trip to Prague five or six years ago. In the midst of all that I'm going to Abu Dhabi to see The Rolling Stones. Following the Jordan trip I have six weeks in Saudi until my contract is up. If I get my way I'll stay on and teach summer school, but that seems unlikely, so chances are I will be America bound. It may not be exactly what I wanted but there are worse things than summer vacation in California.

Since there is nothing to do in the present my friends and I often talk about the future. None of us like living here; our contentment is measured in varying degrees of tolerance. But, we all agree that Saudi is a minor sacrifice for the multitude of futures it sets up. Over the summer I talked about saving money and opening a small resort. That remains the ultimate goal. But,I'm not ready to settle into a settled future. And I won't be anytime soon. Recently, I have been looking into grad school programs in Europe (not because I want a better career, but because I like to learn and I think it would be a great experience). The list of things I want to do and see is getting longer not shorter. The plan will change again soon, it always does. But please understand that when I speechify with confidence and assurance that this plan is the plan, I mean it--100%.

It's just that on the topic of what comes next, I am not to be trusted.

All I know is where I end up is where I am supposed to be.

Until the next shiny thing distracts me.    

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