Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cat Moving Success!

The cats and I arrived safely in NH a short while ago 27 hours and 6,000+ miles after leaving our apartment in Jeddah. They are quickly adjusting to their new environs (and roommates!) and seem no worse for the wear.  Callaghan seems to be abandoning his Stranger Danger attitude and is in love with my mother.  Griffin likes to hide under the bed.  They discovered rain and thunder this afternoon - not huge fans of either.

I'll blog about the travel experience soon - for now, to settle in and sleep and buy a car!

Thanks for all your sweet blog and FB and email messages - they made a huge difference during a difficult time.  I will respond soon (I have fast internet now!!). 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Farewell, Jeddah. Farewell, My Faithful Friend.

I still have a few Saudi posts to write and publish, but for now it's time to say goodbye.  I've been saying goodbyes for two months now as numerous others departed post ahead of me.  Today was my day.  Friends hosted a goodbye BBQ for another departing friend and myself, which was wonderfully sweet.  We had a Ramadan Iftar this week where I bid goodbye to some of my best contacts.  Goodbye dinners, goodbye meetings, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.  Now those of who you know me know that I hate goodbyes.  I have discovered over time that the best coping mechanism is avoiding saying goodbye at all to most people.  This cuts back considerably on my tears, even if it is incredibly selfish.

There were tears today as I said goodbye to friends and colleagues (many falling into both categories).  I felt pretty good that I really only lost it at the end of the day when only a few people were there to witness it.  I sent my farewell email moments before logging off so I wouldn't have to see the replies or answer phone calls.  That's really the way I handle things best. 

I have been focused for weeks on checking out, preparing for home leave and training, working on an exit strategy for the cats, ensuring all my ducks were in a row, so to speak.  It's been exhausting and complicated and, occasionally, frustrating.  I knew I'd forget something, but as I closed out my office this afternoon I thought I was doing pretty well.

Until I got home.

Somewhere in the process of packing my two (very overweight) suitcases and pasting trilingual messages on the cats' carriers in hopes of better treatment by flight crews, I remembered Hattie.  I didn't ever go to say goodbye to Hattie.  Earlier this year I purchased a stone grave marker for her, but when it arrived it was so beautiful that I couldn't bear to leave it somewhere I'd never see it again.  I could have bought another, but I just didn't.  I rarely walked out to Hattie's grave over the two years, but whenever I passed it while tooling around the compound I paid my silent respects.  But I never went a last time. 

You see, it was fine for Hattie to be buried at the Consulate while I was living here, but the thought of leaving her here has really hit me hard.  This was never her home; I have nothing but horrifying memories of her short time in Saudi Arabia; it feels as if I'm abandoning her.  I know these feelings are largely irrational and that there is no viable alternative, but it doesn't stop me from feeling very sad.  So sad and teary that the cats may go willingly into their carriers tonight if it means getting away from my grief. 

The truth of the matter is, no matter how great my tour here was - and it was a great tour - it is clouded by its tragic beginning.  Jeddah and Hattie are inextricably linked for me.  And leaving her here alone, even two years after her death, is heartbreak all over again.  It's not helped by my overwhelming fear of what might happen to the cats during our journey, no matter how carefully I've prepared for their safety.  So for the next 30 hours I will be a bit of a basket case. 

A friend reminded me that I took the tragedy of what happened to Hattie and became an advocate for the safe and affordable transport of pets for Foreign Service personnel.  I was not alone in this endeavor, and our collective efforts paid off.  That does give me some comfort.  That ensures her legacy has a positive impact. 

Saying goodbye to Jeddah is harder than I expected, which shouldn't surprise me.  I think I'll need to write another post about what I mean by that, because this post is taking too sad a turn, and I don't have the emotional energy to turn things around right now. 

So I'll finish packing my bags, take my last shower here, and watch the Olympics.  Soon I'll be on the way to the airport.  I'm going home.  But leaving a piece of my heart here, just as I have in many other places.  Maybe, in the scheme of things, not saying a formal goodbye was okay.  Just as I try so hard to avoid goodbyes, maybe this is for the best.

So if you're ever at the Consulate in Jeddah, go find the quiet spot in the sand beyond the mailroom where a spot is marked with several concrete blocks.  Say hello to Hattie for me.  But not goodbye.  Goodbye is too difficult.