Catching up with …

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:

The next morning, in the eastern emirate of Fujairah, I woke up and went swimming in the Gulf of Oman at sunrise:

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:

12 responses to “Catching up with …”

  1. Lisa says:

    Oh, hooray! Welcome back, Bry – and I love this wrapup post, of course… Haven’t watched the videos yet but having seen some of the budding filmmaker’s other work, I can’t wait.

    Home is lovely, but I have to say there’s something so energizing about shaking things up and heading off to points unknown. Hiking in Oman? Dawn swims in the Gulf? Sounds so exotic and divine. But then again, I suppose to an Omani, threading one’s bike through Manhattan traffic to get groceries in Chinatown and sailing down the East River in a schooner probably sounds pretty exotic and fabulous too.

    Can’t wait to read more about the continuing adventures…

  2. Bryan says:

    Ha ha. I figure if no one else posts this week I’ve at least provided a video per day.

    Thx — happy to be posting.

  3. Rachel says:

    Loving this! What an action-filled post. So, Abu Dhabi resembles both L.A. and Star Wars…good to know.

    How are the temps in late summer? Have you melted?

  4. Bryan says:

    Days can still be a little brutal out, but I did grow up in AZ. It’s more the humidity than the heat. Last night it was only 95 after sunset so we walked home from dinner (about 1/2 mile) and really enjoyed it. Nice breeze blowing.

    We’ve been swimming an awful lot, which helps. Otherwise, duck from AC to AC. The few times I’ve tried to walk to or from work have resulted in a sweaty mess, but a couple weeks from now it should have mellowed out significantly.

  5. T-Mo says:

    Thanks for the update, Bryan! The videos are really great. I love how she uses them as diary entries or mementos of particular events or periods of time. please do keep us all in the loop as you settle in there.

    P.S. If you’re feeling nostalgic for some good ol’ Americana, there’s a production of The Music Man at the Royal Opera House Muscat in early October. My nephew plays Winthrop Paroo, the lisping little brother of Marian the Librarian, and my sister-in-law is in the chorus. Small world.

  6. T-Mo says:

    Only 95 after sunset?! Dayum.

  7. J-man says:

    I love hearing and seeing all the stories! I especially love the film about moving – the editing and music placement are really well done. And I always picture the middle east just like Tattoine, so thanks for confirming that.

  8. Bryan says:

    T-Mo — hoping to make it to Muscat one way or another. I do get a kick out of Music Man. We’ll see if it works. J-man: yeah, I love her placement of image, music, & lyrics. In the summer vacation one I love how lines about seeing your face end up accompanying her smiling face in a way that allows her images to comment on or tweak the lyrics even. Geez. And that sun … I hope I never get tired of it.

    So much left out of the post. The LA interlude in June should have had its own section …

  9. Farrell says:

    Hey Bryan!

    It’s like a mirage seeing a post of yours here. Is it real? Does it disappear when I go to comment? What a great read this was. Man this old TGW site has missed you. But what a great life you’re living. I can’t wait to see more posts like this. More photos. More place descriptions and criticism. And see more of Younger Daughter’s movies. Wow, her movie-making style is so quickly evolving and maturing. I didn’t realize all these years that we were witnessing a possible career trajectory? She’s got really excellent editing rhythm and restraint for a teenager. And such great perspectives. How cool. And how exciting that you’re back writing things here again. It’s a real joy. Maybe you will bring Fawcett around again. In the mean time, be safe! Doesn’t weird stuff happen in the Middle East? Wear your burka!

  10. jeremy says:

    Oh Em Gee. It’s so very wonderful to see a BW post again, providing a much-needed, much-appreciated update, no less. I can’t wait to come visit…

  11. Bryan says:

    Thanks, guys. Happy to be here.

  12. Lisa says:

    9: Yeah, what you said! I had the same thought when I was watching those videos… and then I had another: Surely the young filmmaker must come find her fortunes in LA, no? I hear they have some good film schools -n- stuff out here.