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Amy of Arabia

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The Observer has had some far-flung deputies from time to time, but rarely have they been flung as far as our friend who shipped out in late summer to teach kids in the wild, western deserts of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Amy's just that kind of person, the adventurous sort. In her time, she has worked as a waitress at Sims Barbecue (she may, in fact, have been the reverse Jackie Robinson of that Little Rock foodie fixture), spun blues records as a DJ at KABF-FM, 88.3, and taught school. Last summer, she drained the fifth of Maker's Mark The Observer kept on top of the fridge for medicinal purposes, nipping away our liquid gold one dainty sip at a time. Last year, on the first warm day of spring, she sat on the porch of The Observatory and subjected herself to a quack medical device The Observer had scored for 10 bucks at Goodwill: a terrifying, motorized wooden roller invented by the same guy who created Kellogg's Corn Flakes. Seeing her laugh with glee as she put her ticklish bare feet on the knobby roller knocked the chill right off the winter for Mr. and Mrs. Observer. She sprinkles sunshine like that most everywhere she goes.

We almost just wrote that Amy's One Hell of a Gal, but to hell with that. She's just one hell of a human being. And now, at 40 plus, she has traded in her Daisy Dukes for a stylish abaya and spankin' new passport. Amy of Arkansas has transformed herself by characteristic bravery and sheer force of will into Amy of Arabia, off on the other side of this big ball of dirt and water.

At present, she's embedded with an international gang of other teachers in a villa in the dusty little town of Sila, which lies 350 kilometers west of the capital city of Abu Dhabi. The town is around 7,000 years old (no, that's not an exaggeration) and has a population about the size of Benton. She's got a little curly-tailed Bedouin dog and her ukulele, and periodically heads out to strum "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" while dipping her toes in the Gulf of Arabia.

We've been following her adventures via Dr. Zuckerberg's Fantabulous Book o' Face and a blog she started soon after her arrival in that great sandbox. Her initial homesickness and the difficulty in procuring booze notwithstanding, she sure makes it sound worth a visit. Here's a slightly abridged version of one of her latest posts:

"I trod off to work in the morning — a little brisk in the 70s. The glowing sun, persistent, beckons me west. A Mercedes honks and swipes by. The wind blows and my abaya moves and all you see is a glimpse of the Western woman: a colorful dress, a wisp of blonde, whirling-dervish hair defiant underneath a light, embroidered scarf, attempting a respectful camouflage, and — truth be told — not a complete success. My gold sandals and pedicured feet meet the sandy, dusky soil and I sigh as it douses them rebelliously, knowing that I will wash and anoint them, a bit ritualistically, in the near future in my villa, just like I read in Bible stories.

"I've swum with abandon past the beacons on private beaches, luxuriated in the scents and smells and life on this side of the world: rose water, camel's milk, musk, coconut oil, henna, date palms, gold, curry, tea. I've cycled past mosques and shops and dhows and fishmongers and pickup trucks heavy with a couple of camels. I've stopped many times to just take it all in. I've had the front of a bus cleared, the ladies only section, and sat, elevated and alone and at first embarrassed, then slightly bemused. I've learned to take in stride both the privileges and inconveniences of being a woman here. I've had to.

"There are subtleties, nuances, sly approaches, layers of meaning, obvious and clandestine. These are things I am discovering within myself. How will I evolve? Will I, with the uncovering of this knowledge? I tend to throw myself into experiences sometimes without a full study, with a slightly hazardous bravado. But I will always swim to shore. That's the way to really live. Or at least one way. I'm savoring, sipping, nibbling this experience with all engines go. I intend on enjoying every single taste."

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