Christmas on the Beach, Holiday Coal, and a Marathon Trip to Dubai

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As the sun set over Half Moon Bay, I added a windbreaker and a hat, and pulled up a chair next to the campfire, in the shelter of a canvas windscreen. The wind blew through a makeshift Christmas tree that our friends had set up on top of an unused barbecue grill, decorating it with plastic utility clips. One of the children in the group donated a teddy bear to sit at the foot of the tree, and a Dr. Seuss-like stovetop hat had been added to its head.

A group of eight of us circled round the fire after a day of sailing on the turquoise waters of this little bay on the Arabian Gulf. We have been regular visitors to this beach for the last year, and it felt just right to be relaxing here as a way to celebrate the season. We are not churchgoers, so for us the holiday has always been simply a reason to gather with family and friends. But in recent years, the whole rigamarole seemed to be getting more stressful and less joyous. So this year's laid back Christmas at the beach was exactly what we were looking for.

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Living as an expat makes it easy to create new family traditions on the fly, wherever you are, with whatever stuff you've got. I love that! We have friends who took their children on a diving trip to Thailand for Christmas, and another family who spent Christmas touring the pyramids in Egypt. Others stayed here on camp, and joined in a potluck Christmas dinner. In addition to the traditional turkey and stuffing, the feast included sweet potatoes with pecans (from a Texas family), homemade cranberry sauce (from a couple that recently moved here from St. Croix), and multiple versions of the obligatory green bean casserole.

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Our holiday was already pretty jolly, but here's the best part: we got a Christmas kitten! We named her Eid al  Fáhum´, which roughly translates to "Holiday Coal." We shorten this to Edie, though Michael keeps calling her Lumpy, since she is the lump of coal that Santa brought us. Now, with a tiny purring kitty underfoot, our house really feels like home.

With a full belly and a happy heart, I am looking at what's next on the travel calendar. I plan to stay in the Middle East for the winter and early spring, to see a little more of my new adopted home while the weather is fine. We'll be doing some desert camping, and, hopefully, more sailing. Plus, in January, Michael and I will fly to Dubai, for the Dubai Marathon.

If I had to make a choice between running and getting my teeth drilled, there would be a moment of indecision. I hate running that much. Which is weird, right? I am a yoga instructor. I love dancing. Bike riding is great, and I can power through a session at the gym. But for some reason, I find running to be uniquely hideous. Which is why I have signed up for the 3K Fun Run (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) that's also happening on marathon day. If I hate running with such intensity, I need to figure out what the heck that's all about, and get over it. I have been "training" for my 3K jaunt just as Michael has been training for his 26.2 mile run. And while I still find it fairly miserable, I will say I am coming around to the simplicity and elegant portability of running. Plus, I have been looking for something to balance out my yoga practice, something that gets me outside and moving. I can't imagine that I will ever be much of a serious runner, but this is meeting a need right now.

2010 was an incredible, groundbreaking year for me in terms of travel, and also in the dawning realization that I really can set my mind to things and trust that I have what it takes to make them happen. I believe the travel was the major cause of this revelation. Wow! 2011 is going to be stellar. I hope that in the new year, you are able to pack your bags at least once or twice and see a little more of our spectacular world. I wish you peace and prosperity.