Expat Eyes

This blog contains the photographs, observations and reflections of Rena Diana, an educator and writer, during extended stays in the Arabian Gulf, China, and Mongolia.

Welcome to Expat Eyes!

 Leave the familiar for a while.
Change rooms in your mind for a day.
Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.
All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of

From “All The Hemispheres” by Hafiz, Sufi Poet- c. 1315-1390

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On October 13, on an Emirates Airline flight from Doha, Qatar, to Dubai, UAE, I read the following statement in The Khaleej Times, one of Dubai’s local English language newspapers. It was in an article about an international literature festival: “Iceland is a nation which has always focused on story telling. We think something has not happened as long as it hasn’t been written down on paper.” That describes the way I have felt for many years. Most of my life, in fact.  Compelled to record and chronicle.  I have kept journals- or notebooks, as I now think of them-for as long as I can remember. Just for my own pleasure and to make sense of my life. The writer Joan Didion has commented that she writes in order to understand what she thinks. I like that! Her explanation resonates with me. Then, on that same flight, I read a remark made by Flannery O’Connor: “You may write for the joy of it, but the act of writing is not complete in itself. It has to end in its audience.”  True. And this was the final nudge I needed to  begin writing a blog.

For the past few years, in Dubai and in Qatar, and now in China and Mongolia, I have been filling notebooks with observations and musings. Living abroad is like attending a fast-paced graduate school in a variety of subjects simultaneously. The experience is stimulating, unnerving and enriching.  My notebooks have served as my center, my compass, the place where I go to unwind and digest. In all this traveling, making new nests in new worlds, becoming a part of foreign communities, however fleeting, I have struggled to figure out my role in all of it. Who am I, other than a privileged tourist, a “trailing spouse”? How can I be productive and contribute something worthwhile? Recently, I realized that the answer is actually quite simple. My role is to tell my story and to be an ambassador of sorts, sharing what intrigues and inspires me, from daily interactions to the broader cultural context.

I chose sections of a poem by the Sufi mystic poet Hafiz and a slide show of a whirling dervish performing in the desert outside Dubai to launch this blog. They beckon us to let go, to lose balance, to stretch our identities and our world views. A spirit of play  and adventure permeates both art forms. The poet and the dancer are inviting us to enlarge our circles. I hope you will join me!

Next Post: Traveling Inside Out

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5 thoughts on “Welcome to Expat Eyes!

  1. Punky Martin on said:

    Inspiring, uplifting and glorious!
    Congratulations! I shall follow …..your thankful friend.

  2. Love it! So glad we finally get to see these amazing places through your observant and thoughtful eyes. Looking forward to more!

  3. shelley on said:

    What a treat and a very personal glimpse into your amazing adventures and thoughts!

  4. Rena–great great GREAT. This is so interesting and helpful –it helps me learn about the culture and the beauty of these places….places I am sure I will not visit. Now I feel like a know something about the people and the place…being there…and that is a help to me and the artists I work with. So happy to read and see the photos—and know about you and where you are and see what you are seeing….very cool beans. love, mtf

  5. Anna Burns on said:

    Rena, I feel so grateful to have this blog, to explore, to remember our few days together in Doha. I remember you telling me, when we bought jewelry in the souk, “go ahead and buy it, it will always help you remember this day”, and so I did, and I often wear this piece and remember with so much pleasure our laughter and high spirits on that day! What a brave and faithful person you are to record your thoughts and feelings not just for yourself, but for us!!! Anna

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