DEAR CAROLINE

Dear Caroline,

What does the adhan sound like in Saudi Arabia? In Morocco,  the call to prayer sounded like a car engine backfiring, at least at first. After the initial lilting refrain of “God is greatest,” the melody became easier to identify. I hear that in Saudi, those who sing the call to prayer are like rock stars, the equivalent of Bruce Springsteen or Willie Nelson. I don’t know about you, but I would pay good money to hear Willie Nelson sing anything five times a day.

It’s been about a month since you moved back to the Middle East; how is the Arabic coming along? When I was struggling to pass my Arabic 301 midterm, I had a friend describe learning the language as “running full speed towards a brick wall repeatedly until you break through only to come to another, taller, wall”. I imagine that moving across the world for two years might feel similar.

But remember when you were in Russia and your room was so cold that there was ice on the inside of the windows (that was how it happened right?) and your host mother (was it your host mother?) brought you a teddy bear for Valentine’s Day? Did any of that happen? I feel like I remember this story from about 10 years ago. Regardless, you’ve gone through rough and new experiences before and came out with great insight and even better stories. You learned the hard language, and made friends where you didn’t think there would be any, and found tokens of love in cold and lonely places. Think of the stories you have been able to tell, the people you’ve been able to meet. I suppose gold is where you find it.

When I first moved to D.C. you took me to breakfast at the Bus Boys & Poets up on U Street, I’m sure I sounded lost and confused and overwhelmed. Thank you for suffering through my angsty post-grad phase that morning. Seriously, you’re a saint. A week or so later, your letter arrived at my basement apartment in Georgetown. I don’t remember everything you wrote but I did memorize one line; “Fort Worth, by God, Texas it’s not, but at least for now, it’s home.” It has become a mantra that I say anytime D.C. gets too far under my skin. It was what I needed to hear then so let me return the favor now. Saudi Arabia may not be the red brick house in Alexandria, or the apartment in Amman, or the house in Wedgewood, Fort Worth, by God, Texas but at least for now, Saudi is home.

I don’t know if I’ve ever told you, but you were the first person I ever knew who had studied abroad. I didn’t even realize it was a possibility until your mom (shout out to Kathy “Love Bunny” Dierker) told me all of your travel stories after Friday cotillions. “Rachel, you’ll never guess what Caroline is doing… she went to this city, learned this thing, met this diplomat, moved to D.C. etc…” she would tell me outside the dance studio where I learned to waltz and foxtrot with your brother John, and David Vreeland, and Alex Koger, and all the other William James boys, gosh middle school. What a trip.

Anyway, just FYI, there is no one on earth who can make you seem cooler than Kathy can. Middle school Rachel thought “well, if Caroline Dierker can study abroad, I can study abroad too.” And I did:  I studied human trafficking in Morocco, and I cried in the souk because every day felt like running into a brick wall and I couldn’t learn the language fast enough and I couldn’t find my way home, and then I just… did. I learned the language, and I found my way home I mean.  

I moved to D.C. and I figured it all out because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that blonde girls from Texas can do just about damn near anything and I might not have learned that if Kathy hadn’t bragged about you. And I might not have thought to move away from home if I hadn’t heard that it could be done because you did it and it worked. Now, I didn’t follow you to DC on purpose but, without you, I wouldn’t have learned that people born in Texas don’t have to stay in Texas. Just because you have roots doesn’t mean you can’t have adventures too.

How is Saudi Arabia? I hear black is the new black. Hopefully baby Charlie is adding to the local color. Tell Andrew hi, and let him know that I made Derby Pie a few weeks back and I think I really honed the recipe. The key is equal parts milk chocolate chips and dark chocolate morsels. Extra bourbon helps too.

I’m thinking of you often.

Stay true,

Rachel

P.S. “After Visiting Friends” is still one of the best books I’ve ever read, thank you for gifting it to me. Now I have a book recommendation for you, it’s called “I Am Pilgrim” it’s a spy novel and I think you’ll devour it with great haste.

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