There are two buses that leave the stop near my work.
Depending on what time I get out each night, I take either the 54 or the 56 back toward my apartment; whichever shows up first. The 54 takes a little longer but brings me a few blocks closer to home than the 56. It means a 10-minute walk instead of a 20-minute one.
But lately I’ve found myself hoping for the 56 to show up first, like it did tonight. It lets me off at a Co-op, which is one of the
supermarket hypermarket brands here. (Supermarkets in this country are like miniature convenience stores. And markets are like indoor malls, some of which contain a hypermarket. ‘Tis a silly place.)
Since it’s a long walk home, I always stop by the store and buy a drink and a candy bar to keep me occupied. I make a point to get kinds I haven’t tried before. Tonight was mango and lychee flavored milk and a Cadbury fruit & nut bar chocolate bar, both of which were surprisingly good.
I mourn the loss of my favorite types of candy here (Three Musketeers and Fast Breaks are nowhere to be found, and Skittles are very uncommon.) But on the plus side, Kinder, Cadbury and Galaxy chocolates are abundant and cost as much as a Hershey’s or Nestle product in the States.
Similarly, what Abu Dhabi lacks in flavored sweet tea it makes up in varieties of cheap fruit juice. I can find bottles of mango, guava, red orange, pomegranate and kiwi juice in at least three stores on every block, all for less than the equivalent of a dollar. And if I’m feeling adventurous, the numerous “refreshment” shops (at least, the kind that sells shawarma instead of hookah) have menus of strangely named concoctions like “computer”, “dolphin”, “lexus” and “galaxy” that they can mix for you using fresh fruit. I haven’t braved much more than mango yet, but the price is about a third of what a smoothie runs in the US, and you get more juice out of it.
Once I have my snack and whatever groceries I pick up along the way, the walk home is peaceful and, in places, beautiful. Temperatures at night now are in the mid-70s and the city is lit up enough that I have no trouble finding my way. Combine the view above (which I took last week) with some relaxing music and it’s a great way to unwind from a deadline rush at work.
Snacks and music on the way home is something I got from Wednesday nights when I was in middle and high school. My stepdad and I were part of a community band in Tampa. He was the conductor and I worked my way up to a first trombone part in the group. We went almost every week from when I was in the middle of seventh grade until I left for college. And every night after rehearsal (or sometimes a concert), we would stop at a gas station for a drink, a candy bar and three scratch-off tickets. We would have the radio tuned to WMNF, a community radio station, to catch all the weird and avant garde music they played on Wednesday evenings.
And we would talk. About anything and everything, from the serious to the inane. It was father-son bonding time; for the 45 minutes it took to get to Tampa and back each week (and whatever time we had leftover for fast food), he would share his love of music, history and life in general and give me what guidance he could as I stumbled my way through growing up.
It was an oasis of reflection and relaxation in the middle of our overscheduled week. And now that I think about it, having that time alone with him each week made a huge difference in a household with four overscheduled kids and two working parents. It’s still one of my strongest memories from when I was growing up.
I’m not sure why I’m rambling about this. Maybe it’s because there was a rare thunderstorm in Abu Dhabi tonight that made me a little homesick. Maybe it’s because my family’s going through a few issues back home and I wish I could be there with them. Maybe because it’s half past midnight and I’m running on too little sleep because my lack of blackout curtains wakes me up at 8 a.m. every morning these days.
But anyway, here’s to Bus 56 and taking the long walk home. And to whomever first looked at a mango and a lychee and thought, “You know, I should blend these things together with milk and bottle it.” Because it’s surprisingly good.