Last year I sat on the edge of Horemheb’s tomb – he’s the king that came shortly after Tutankhamun – and I shared tea with three Egyptian men. One invited me to be his third wife, I declined. We laughed about football and he told me about his kids.
Last year I said yes to a young Egyptian man who wanted to buy me coffee. I beat him at pool, and he took me out for dinner. I drove his horse through the villages on the west bank. We saw cows being slaughtered and he bought me chocolate even when I told him not to.
Last year I went to a beautiful club on a boat on the Nile. My dress was the longest dress of all the women. I wore the least makeup and had my shoulder’s covered. In the middle of the dance floor, I belly-danced, for the first time. I was never short of a partner.
Last year I danced on the beach after the sun had set, earphones in, feet bare, not caring who was watching, just because I could.
Last year I spent 9 days in noble silence, doing serious meditation, with more disciplined, more focused and more patience than I had ever imagined.
Last year I woke up early to run up the hill and watch the sun rising on the horizon.
Last year a guy stopped me as I was walking past and apologised for his impropriety, but he just needed to tell me that I was beautiful. I beat him at pool.
Last year I watched my sister stride across the stage, greet her chancellor as an equal and take her degree. No other woman showed such confidence.
Last year I watched my sister fall in love.
Last year I became fitter than I have ever been. I ran up my mountain and swam in the sea. I cycled up a 20% hill and almost fell off my bike at the top.
Last year I created a network of au pairs so that I’d always have someone to have coffee with. I learnt about Italian food, Irish fears of commitment, German heartbreaks, Swedish grit, American religion, philosophy and gynaecologists. We ate chocolate croissants that melted in your mouth.
Last year I ate carrot cake pancakes, and told my secrets. Even the ones that I didn’t want to tell.
Last year I did the grape harvest and made wine.
Last year I caught a black donkey in a dark wood.
Last year I designed, traced, sawed, sanded and painted Christmas lights for the centre of Palermo. I walked beneath them and realised I’d made something real.
Last year I taught nature studies in Catalan, babysat in French (in a really big castle), and did woodwork in Italian.
Last year I read 58 books.
Last year I watched the sun set, orange on a winter’s sky.
Last year I saw the milky way and hunted zombies in the vegetable patch.
Last year I was told thank you by more people, with more sincerity and for more reasons than I could have imagined.
For last year, I am truly grateful.