Last winter I didn’t even manage a family holiday letter. In the past I’d let things slip as far as St. Patrick’s Day, but last year things felt so up in the air I had no idea how to describe where we’d been and where we were going, and so I let it drop altogether.
So let me see what I can do here in as few words as possible, with more than a little help from my prolific progeny.
Part 1: The desert.
In December, I visited Abu Dhabi for the first time, on an invitation to lecture on Angels in America in my friend Cyrus’s course on the “Cosmopolitan Imagination.” I was immediately struck by the Tatooine quality of the sun,
the pleasant weather (75-80 degrees in winter), the extraordinary diversity and intelligence of the students, who come from all over the world, and the fact that there were some teenagers from New York, faculty kids, the same age as Younger Daughter, attending an American high school that seemed to have a distinctly LA vibe, at least in terms of landscape:
It looked like Cyrus and his family were staying for another year, which was a big draw. I flew home, wondering if I could convince my family to go for it, but it turns out they were already ahead of me and greeted me by asking if we could make it happen.
Part 2: It’s not easy being 17.
Meanwhile, Older Daughter had unplugged from Facebook for almost two years while she worked on college applications. One of them included this, filmed by her sister:
In December, of course, we had no idea where she’d be going to school come fall.
Part 3: Return to the desert.
By February I had the job in AD lined up and all that remained was for the family to visit and check out schools. We did.
We liked it:
We applied to the American high school. Older Daughter also flew to AD as a candidate for admission to the university and had a swell time with kids from around the globe. We saw her a few times across the square or near our hotel, but we were under strict orders to steer clear of her until her candidate weekend was over. In the end, she decided that coming along to the middle east with the rest of us wouldn’t give her the independence she’d imagined college would bring. But staying in New York while friends and family departed didn’t sound like much fun either. She had other college offers, but in the end decided to go to my university, but start in Paris for the first year.
Part 3.5: Bryan can’t stop finding ways to go back to the UAE.
I brought some students from NY to AD over spring break. Among many other nifty things, we went hiking in Oman:
Part 4: So long, farewell.
By June we knew we were moving for sure, and that we’d be gone at least a year. We decided to have a goodbye party, combined with a 20th anniversary party (!) and a graduation party for Older Daughter. Many friends were there. One of them took my favorite photo from the evening:
It turns out that 20 years later, this is my beautiful wife. (Same as it ever was.)
Part 5: Endless summer.
If you’re sensing patterns here, one of them’s that Younger Daughter makes films, and I’m enamored of them. She made this one after we moved out of our place in July:
And this one to document part of our summer out West, after we put our NY house into storage and sent a small portion of our belongings to AD by ship:
Part 6: You say goodbye and I say hello.
Saying goodbye to Older Daughter when we headed to AD and she stayed in NY for a couple weeks before flying to Paris was about the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But she’s doing well, and sends her love, and Paris is much closer to us than New York would have been. Stephanie got to fly there to help her settle in.
And now she’s back and we’re settling into life with just two kids at home and a new country to explore. Luckily the two remaining offspring get along … most of the time: