Special Edition

Editor Note: This entry was written originally in 2007.

I'm still here. Not exactly here, not in Houma, but here, on the map. A flurry of activity…a move…an engagement…a vacation…a job search.

I'm here, back in St. Paul, and thrilled about it. It sounds funny when I just reviewed the last Houma Report and realized that the last time I wrote, we were on the New Orleans plan. Mostly the real estate market decided that one for us. If you have an empty house, common sense kind of dictates maybe you should live in it. Since we had that in St. Paul, and not in New Orleans, we went with that. And anyway, that has turned out to be a great thing.

The cats and I have settled in and embraced the neighborhood. They stalk the bunnies through the windows, and I stalk neighbors for jobs in the area. I've joined a neighborhood advisory council to see about the possibility of luring a grocery store and a coffee shop to within two blocks. I've interviewed, been disappointed, interviewed again (stay tuned). My boyfriend has been a rock star, supporting, cajoling, pouring champagne, proposing.

Yes, proposing. I'm thrilled to announce that we got engaged up at the cabin on the Fourth of July. It was, so far, the best day of my life. Above an 8 on the FDLS, for faithful readers. He is a brave man and was not cowed by the presence of neighbors or parents. He wasn't even swayed by my general non-cooperation (pre-ask), which is probably a fair representation of our relationship thus far. We visited parties, located champagne, and were treated to a wonderful toast by my parents in the spot on the lake where they met.

A few days after that, we went on our previously planned trip to Dubai, to visit my old friend from New Zealand. The trip was a crazy experience…Middle East Light is how we think of it. A measure of the conservative, covered-up desert culture, with a huge dollop of decadence and none of the shame Westerners like us might have anticipated from a community run by a Muslim dictator. We partook of the five-star experience; night-clubbed with the naughty, repressed Saudis, and felt self-conscious when passing busloads of wildly underpaid Pakistani laborers. If Dubai wasn't such a long flight from here, it would become a favorite warm-weather winter vacation destination for North Americans. Restrictions and guidelines around alcohol consumption make it very family-friendly, and it is also very safe. Outstanding service leads to incredible pampering. Ultimately, though, Chip and I could not escape the feeling of guilt about being somewhere so unsustainable. All of that luxury, all of those crazy man-made islands, all of those skyscrapers, all of that underpaid labor…right in the middle of the sand. It doesn't make sense. The incredible speed with which things get done, however, has piqued our curiosity about the potential of dictatorships.

And then we came home. Back to the job search, back to the business of life. And to the business of figuring out how to get married.