Don Daniel inspects his holdings



It’s Christmas morning and for the first time in my experience of living here, there are no motorcycles zipping along noisily on the street in front of our building. Oh, if it were only this quiet the other 364 days of the year! Here, people are at work by seven and the buzzing of motors begins before dawn.


The sun is very bright, the temperature is quickly rising, but nobody is out walking.  On Christmas morning people stay home with our families.  If we don’t have families, we hide in our rooms. Here, they call a rented room a “piezza,” and sometimes usually they come with a shared bath and access to a minimal kitchen


I imagine the single people are lazing about their rooms, sipping terrere and scrolling through Facebook posts on their laptops. The parents of families are doing the same, while their children play and fight among themselves, systematically destroying their new Christmas presents.


For some reason, this Christmas morning I am reminded of my first plans for retiring in a third-world country. These were my dreams of five years ago. Even though I had no savings and not much income, I was planning on buying a coffee plantation in Nicaragua. Then I would be Don Daniel, riding on his white stallion, wearing riding boots and holding a riding crop and wearing an enormous straw hat. The workers would bow when they saw me and pretty women in colorful skirts would curtsey.


I am so glad none of that came to pass. Today, the idea of responsibility and being tied down to real estate of any kind makes my skin crawl. 


Christmas Eve Day at Immigration in Dubai

Like dutiful Joseph and pregnant Mary, we spent Christmas Eve day  in the Middle East fulfilling a government requirement. It cost almost five hundred dollars and we didn’t get it all accomplished, but enough so that we’re still on track. Mostly we accepted the results and had a pretty good time, anyway. The high point of the day was when we left the car in the Immigration parking lot and took a bus to the Dubai Mall, where we hung out in a beautiful bookstore. I bought a book of Handel’s piano music. Even though you can download all that stuff for free on the Internet and print it out, it’s kind of nice to have it all in a book, rather than scattered around on xeroxed pages.

I recently went on a picnic with some Muslim friends, and they asked me how I could possibly believe in three gods. There is but one God, they asserted. Everyone knows that. Common sense demands that. But then I thought about the power of a story that God gave up his only son, and having lost a son myself, I know how hard a sacrifice that would be. And I thought of how recent a faith both Christianity and Islam are. One is two thousand years old and the other fifteen-hundred. There are graves here, near Dubai, in Al Ain, that are eight thousand years old! That’s earlier than the pyramids. Six thousand years before the birth of Christ.

Anyway, just some Christmas musings from the vantage point of Dubai, 100 miles from Iran, about 1,500 miles southeast of the Holy Land. Where camels wander at will over endless stretches of sand and there is no snow, ever, except inside the ski run at the Emirates Mall.