Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sand Sledding in Qatar

Circa 2002 Good times with friends at Art Hill on a toboggan in St. Louis.  Yep, the sled is thaaaat long!




Circa 2010 One of the city sledding landmarks for generations in St. Louis--Art Hill, which is across from the St. Louis Art Museum.  Underneath the statue of King Louis IX is a blazing bonfire that people are standing around.  Sometimes there were several fires at the top of the hill--enough room for anybody to warm up.

It is a biting 60 degrees over here in Doha during the day.  On the streets and in the compound, I see workmen wearing stocking caps and gloves.  Yikes, it is the winter season here in Qatar!  Lately I have been making hot chocolate, herbed tea, savory soups, and even wearing a stocking hat myself to the mall!  Ha!   For a girl from San Diego, California, I always relished the gray, icy days in New York City, Baltimore, New Jersey, and even in Beijing where I have lived as an adult.  My sentiments exactly match those of Robert Frost (notice his last name), the poet from Vermont, "You can't get too much winter in the winter."  In the ensuing years with my children and their friends, I made up for any snowy days I did not experience in San Diego (although my memories of wintry beach walks are magical too).  As their mom, I would yelp with joy as loud as any of them when a snow day was announced--maybe even in a more booming tone....

Circa 2001 Children's faces in the snow=one of my favorite things....

When I see the weather reports of minus degrees and polar vortex in parts of the world right now (as I am surrounded by sand), my inner child gets a little homesick.  To wake up in the morning and see the world blanketed with snow is like entering into a fairy tale; the lace of snow seems to renew the world--especially the first snowfall of the season.  The backdrop changes in the seasons never fail to rejuvenate me, and make me feel like a child again.

Sometimes I yearn for a crackly fire in the fireplace, snow days off from school, snow forts, and jumping in the big van with a pile of sleds and kids to go slide down a hill.   I would bring thermoses of steaming hot chocolate for everybody on the hill, and the wintry magic would blow--encircling us with warmth--even in the stinging air.   Sometimes the kids would stay on the same hill for the whole day--making jumps to fly over on the sled, as they wove around their fellow sledders.  I am glad I didn't trek them home too early--not until they ached and pled to leave the hill.  I knew these moments would last forever--not only in me, their snow-starved mother, but in their sacred chambers of memories.

Circa 1999 I told you I was crazy for snow.

When I heard that outside of Doha there were sand dunes to slide and sled on, my inner child was entranced, even excited, to explore the beige barrenness of sand around me.   Although it meant a messy car with peppered sand, I was ready to try this new kind of adventure in the sand dunes.   I wanted to carve some seasonal activities that make me feel like it is actually winter--besides making a hearty new soup.   The vast openness of the horizon, and stomping and slithering around in the sand were an unexpected gift to someone who is missing a snowstorm right now.  Indeed, our inner child can be filled and enlivened in a myriad of ways--especially if there are children around to show us how.

Joseph and I tramped up a few times, and slid down the dunes--barefoot, and blissfully happy--just like a pair of wonder-awed kids....   

J. feeling like he is King of the Dunes--just about to slide down.

Looking at the sunset on the horizon.  It started to get cold so a bonfire was made for "the sledders."

We might be in the desert, but a bonfire is still a welcoming reception after the desert chill blows in.  

No hot chocolate here on THIS hill--just give me some water please....

E. learning how to slide down a sand dune in Qatar
Z. at the top of the sand dune.  Funny thing is, he is my son's good friend (and a special family friend), and came to visit us in Qatar.  I remember giving him hot chocolate in St. Louis on top of another kind of sledding hill....
Look who came to the party!  We found a desert sojourner on the crest of the dune.
Lessons Learned:

1) Seek the companionship of children because they use all their senses to experience every moment.  Adventures with them make us more alive, and revitalize our sometimes weary-worn adult spirits.  Tiptoe around tide pools and slide down sand dunes--even if you get sand in your hair.  

2) Adjustments and adaptions to former traditions are always possible.  You can even make yourself believe it is really winter in Qatar.