Anthropologists leave hearth and home for exotic locales to study hunter gatherers, dig up dino bones and whatnot, and perhaps live out their Edgar Rice Burroughs childhood fantasies. Barack Obama knows this well, but unfortunately I didn't have the smarts to parlay the detachment and cool headedness that comes with being an anthropologists child into political superstardom. Meh. I DO remember my dad waxing eloquent at the table about how NASA talked of sending an anthropologist on an expedition to Mars, and how he would love to be that guy. I was maybe nine years old and remember feeling bewildered and hurt. I didn't see this as an opportunity for adventure for me pater; I simply couldn't fathom how he could leave me. But like I said, anthropologists leave to go study the things they study, and while it isn't like having a parent off fighting a war, gone is just gone.
Now I am gone. My children are old enough to live alone, but it still feels wrong. Here is the thing though: we all have to make a living. We get old and need stuff. I took a look at the lives of my mother and a couple other aging women in my family and felt cold terror. I got a job in Oman, packed my bags, and off I went. Now I see my children once a year, and life goes on. Without me.
So I play on the beach at Faziya, go to the Hilton and smoke shisha with my husband in the middle of the night at the weekend, visit with friends, cook dinner, and generally live a full life. And I dream. I dream about going home. I dream about going home in ten years to a restored farmhouse and making jam with my daughter. My model handsome husband is there making shakshuka for everyone. My aunt is aging gracefully, sewing aprons and puffing on her electronic cigarette. My grandkids play there in the summer and pick blackberries. My mother is alive and well and taking a nap in the living room. My dad is still kicking ass and taking names.
This life in Oman isn't meant to be a grand adventure for me. It is, as it happens, but that is not the point. I am storing up for a different future, one that doesn't involve being gone. It isn't killing me to be so far from home; it isn't a terminal condition. It is depressing as hell sometimes to always miss the people you love, every day. Good thing I am an anthropologist's daughter.