We’re melting!

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Image taken from  http://indianexpress.com/article/technology/science/melting-glaciers-a-spoke-in-earths-wheel/

It’s that time of year again where you literally become a shrinky dink when you walk outside.  If you smell something roasting, it’s you.  Both in Phoenix and the UAE temps are hovering around 120 F, which is never a fun thing.  In the UAE we have the added fun of humidity, Ramadan (which includes hungry, thirsty, cranky drivers), and covering one’s arms and legs.  Not that I’m complaining (okay maybe a little).   Luckily, we also have a/c powerful enough to chill indoor skating rinks and ski slopes, so all is well.

I’m back from my time in Virginia and busy doing the exit tango.  For those of you who will one day leave the UAE remember the best way to handle this is play circus music in your head while you’re running from one place to the next to get your stamps and signatures.  For those of you not in the UAE wondering why we do this:  A. we want to leave legally and, most importantly, B. we want our End Of Service gratuity (which will be a pretty sight in my bank account, until, alas it melts away too).

I was in our main office on Sunday, and I totally wished I could play my mental circus tune out loud.  Hahaha I kept running into the same people I know (hey Sangita!) while dashing back and forth amongst corridors to get our signatures.

The good news is the visa in my passport is cancelled, as is my emirates ID, so I don’t have to panic wondering if my passport will be back in my hands in time for my July 6 flight.  It’s now official:  I have 30 days to leave the country (of course I can always come back for a visit).  The countdown is on.

It’s my hope that I will be finished with the close-out process by this Thursday, and I’m thinking that will actually happen — inshAllah.  I see a celebratory Iftar in my near future.  Then all I have to do is show up to work, play with my pals here, pack up my last suitcase and meet my family in Germany.  17 more days!

I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to wax all nostalgic yet, but I’m sure that’ll happen next week when I’ll have time to relax and enjoy my last days here.

As for news on the Belgium job, I got an email that my travel orders paperwork was submitted yesterday.  I don’t actually know what that means, but I know it’s a good thing.  My official passport is being processed at the state gov office, which is also a good thing.  And, I have a tentative class schedule and rosters (teaching 11th grade English and ESL). So, I’m sensing I’ll be making my move to Belgium early August.  This means I’ll have just a few weeks — maybe two — in Phoenix before I leave, but I’ll be back for Christmas.

So, there you have it.  I’m melting (wish that included my fat, but ugh I’m still eating more than I burn), but things are getting done.  There’s an actual finish line in front of me, and right behind that another starting line.  Come on lands of cooler temps!

 

 

A Confederacy of Dunces…

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Image taken from:  https://www.nps.gov/subjects/urban/richmond-va.htm

Not the novel, but my journey to new employment.  Oh my goodness what an eclectic ride it has been!

I’m back in Richmond for a few days, so that I can do the multitude of things I need to do to move along in my new-hire processing.  While Richmond is no New Orleans, it’s wonderful to be back in the southern city where I spent my 20s getting educated and, well, pregnated.  All sorts of birthing happened for me here.  Plus, it’s a beautiful almost-too-north-to-be-southern (if you ask folk from Georgia) city, although hello? it was the capital of another confederacy, so southern it is.  Today’s Richmond has kept its antebellum charm while mixing in a whole lot of modern art, edge and yumminess (micro breweries and restaurants galore — woo hoo!).  But, that’s not what this post is about (although God Bless the food, booze and my friends!).

Day Two of being back:  I finally get through to my HR specialist.  We haven’t been able to connect since I got good news from her in mid-May.  I told her I got paperwork from a friend and managed to get my medical check done (by 4 different doctors, but that’s part of my UAE crazy), etc. etc.  Could I meet with her after I met with the security guy?  Sure. Is there anything else I need to bring?  Lemme check.  Pause … she needs the welcome packet back that she thought she sent in May, and she needs the affidavit letter signed in front of a notary.

Um, I never got this packet.

Another pause to check, and an,  oh man, you didn’t get it, well I need it.  Let me send it to you.

I receive packet.  It’s 45 pages long.  Michelle, whom I’m staying with,  has a lovely printer, but it’s not working, so her friend goes to his work to print all of it out for me — on the softest, sleekest paper ever.  Win.

Next up, find a notary.  No problem, it’s a gorgeous day outside and the post office and a bank are within walking distance.  So two friends and I begin our three hour tour.  First up:  the Post Office, but it’s closed and a stationary mail truck is open instead.  The lady inside barely looks up from her magazine and then looks at me like I’m crazy when I ask if she’s also a notary.  She says something I can’t hear and points to the bank.

We go into bank only to get caught up in a bullet-proof glass security thing.  A lady loudly says “only one person in the box please!”  My friends escape outside, so I go in to be told sorry, our notary has left for the day, but there’s a funeral home down the road.

We’re not really sure where it is when a man with one of those mechanical voices scares the shit out of us by being nice and telling us which way to go.

Funeral home one:  friends and I go in feeling weird because we’re too alive and too happy to be there.  That notary is also gone for the day.

Funeral home lady is nice enough to call another funeral home to discover that yay their notary is in.  She tells us how to get there, but then looks at us (realizing we’re a little sweaty), “you walking or driving?”  Walking.  “Oh lord that’s a bit of a ways.”

You see our plan was to walk to notary, get my stamp and then stop at this place called Patrick Henrys, which is an awesome lil tavern, but now we have to walk all the way back to Michelle’s, so we can drive to the next funeral home, and then find our way to a much-needed bar stool.

Funeral home two:  Now we’re in Six Feet Under territory.  First funeral home could pass for something else, this one was definitely meant for the dead and grieving.  But, the man in suit and tie was very nice and brought me to the back room.  My pen explodes and I say something inappropriate about God and me being where the dead are getting spruced up.  I laugh, my notary laughs, and the other man in there laughs too.  We’re all happy and giddy, and I’m thanking them too cheerfully and loudly as I get to reception area and lo and behold there is a woman in an all-fuscia pant suit crying.  Why she was wearing all bright pink to mourn is beyond me, but I still felt awkward to be as cheery as her pants when she was obviously not.  It’s all good because ten minutes later I’m celebrating my stamp at Patrick Henrys.

Morning of Day Three:  The welcome packet email included contact information for the person who will be working on my official passport.  Luckily for me she’s an early riser and gets back to me before Michelle and I leave for D.C. for my HR appointments.  Long story short I quickly discover I need to turn in my regular passport, which is a problem because I’m going back to the UAE in a few days.  Official passport processing could take up to a month.  I won’t be back in the states until July 20, and I’m expected to begin my new job on Aug 10 — so as you can see there’s a problem.  Passport lady tells me to do something online and come see her when I’m finished with the rest of my appointments. Needless to say, I am freaking out and beyond stressed but off we go.

I get to HR office and now I feel like Maxwell Smart because I have to walk my way through concrete hallways and a series of doors (including, later on, one that looked like a vault door) before I get to a security man with a big-ass gun on his lap.  He’s nice and points to where I need to go next.  They’re serious security dudes who take my ID and have me call my first appointment to pick me up.  I’m dressed casually while everyone else waiting is all suited up because they’re interviewing.  Again, we’re surrounded by bullet proof glass and all sorts of security type doors.  My guy joins me, and I follow him to only, get this,  I shit you not:  get my back pack stuck in the revolving door.  I’m like a turtle on its back just kicking its lil legs up.  I’m embarrassed and joke “Oh shit I broke the DOD.”

Big-gun man laughs, the other guys try to keep it professional, but they’re definitely wondering who hired this idiot.  My appointment, thank God, is getting a kick out of this, and the rest of our time together is fun — even when my damned finger prints would NOT flipping take right.

Long story longer:  I enjoy everyone I meet in the security office (while Comey’s testifying on the t.v. near us) and am passed on to my HR person, who was so different in person than what I expected.  We do our thing — yay most of my stuff seems to be worked out — and then I’m brought to the passport lady, who is my saving grace!  She completes my processing in person, takes my pic, makes me swear it’s all true and tells me to rush my original birth certificate to her, which can take the place of my passport.  Do I have my birth certificate?  No, but it’s in Arizona, and God Bless my husband because he managed to find it (which I’m sure was an amusing sight) and overnight it, so my passport processing is happening — whew!  — and I can fly back to the UAE to finish up my contract there.

There are a few more things I need to do before I finally receive my travel orders, but despite the craziness and the stress, I’m glad I got to meet the people behind the scenes.  I liked them all and hope they’re a reflection of what my new co-workers will be like.  I don’t yet have the final orders, but after all this crazy I think it’s time I finally told you all where I’m going next.

I don’t know how I managed to pull it off, but I actually got a job in Belgium.  Lucky me will be working at an international high school in the NATO base south of Brussels.  It’s been a stressful few months, but woo hoo!  I can smell the frites, beer and chocolate now.   To heck with ever getting rid of my Budha belly.  Up next?  Mama has to learn some French.

And, survive any more trials and tribulations that are sure to come up before I get there. But Belgium here I come — um, inshAllah!

 

Bureaucracy and the Immigrant (my Beauty and the Beast tale, um flipped?)

I’m flying back to the states for a week to take care of stuff, so I’ve begun the close down of my expat status here in the UAE, so that InshAllah when I return the rest of my closeout will go quickly.  Since, I’ll also be moving to another country in a few months (part of the stuff I have to take care of), I’m also researching expat life in the new country.

It seems running around to different offices, being told different things, and having to get lots and lots of official stamps on official papers is also part of that country’s way of doing things.  Woes me and my never-ending stamp/paper trail.  Too bad this doesn’t tone body parts!

My home country has its fair share of bureaucratic bullpoop (in the spirit of Ramadan I’m trying not to cuss), but me oh my do I miss the efficiency of things like —- gasp!—- American utilities and cable companies.  I know some of you are thinking I’ve lost my mind here, but trust me on this.

It took almost two weeks of running around to get electricity and water turned on in my apartment.  It took only two days to shut it off (I was hoping for more time, but oh well).  That said, I then have to wait two days before receiving a text, so that I can go to the utility office to collect my clearance letter, and, find out how much longer I’ll have to wait to get back my 1,000 dirham (around $227) deposit.  Inshallah maybe I’ll get it that day?

Clearance letter?  Yes, I need to bring my employer proof that my debts are paid, which is fair enough.  I get that.  Why I have to go wait in line to go get it is beyond me.  The bill gets texted each month, why not the letter?

Cable and Internet took 3 months to finally get working right in my apartment.  I kid you not it took less than an hour for them to cut that sucker off.  That said, I will have to wait around two to three days before going to the main office —- God help me! that’s a DMV-like experience —- to possibly collect my clearance letter.  I’m fully expecting several trips before I actually get that letter.

Same company also needs to switch my mobile from post to pre paid.  Now that doesn’t cut off so quickly.  I’ve been told it’ll take up to 72 hours, and in the meantime if I go over my remaining balance of 10 call minutes and under 1 gigabyte of data the switch will be cancelled.  So, for three days — at a time when I’m making calls and using data because my Internet is gone — pretty much don’t use my phone.  Then, I have to do the prepaid thing, then, you know, wait for my clearance letter.  If I weren’t in such a hurry to get these clearance letters before I fly out, I’d space it out better, but it is what it is.

I’m a little confused about the whole closing out my apartment thing, which I will finish when I return.  Apparently, I do something online to get a “your closing out housing has been approved” form, then my landlord needs to print and sign a letter, and then I bring it to my employer with everything else, and then, if I’m lucky, during my first visit, someone there signs and stamps, takes my passport for a few days to close out my work visa, and then I get to, hopefully, chill by the hotel pool paid for my employer while waiting on my passport return (2 or 3 days I’m told).  I’m holding on to the dream of pool time to help get me through this.

Now, let’s add the fact that I’m also in the process of being hired by a government entity for my country (oh the joy of more paperwork), getting my teaching license renewed (which should be easy) and then I have to, you know, go through the legalities of immigration and housing in my new home, with a language I do not yet know (okay I know like 4 words of it).

I’d say send in the booze, but it’s Ramadan, and I’m trying to be good.

I’m atoning for my disorganised, procrastination sins because this is a whole other circle of hell.  I’m not looking forward to all the wasted line time associated with it.  BUT, this is a convoluted Beauty (so much for me being a modest soul) and the Beast story.  Beyond the curse is the magical, almost happily ever after, overseas life.  This too is what I hold on to when being told “Madam, you must go to X, then come back with X.”  Or, being cussed out in a foreign language, while I sit there with my folder of papers, grinning like the mad hatter, hoping the raised voices are proclaiming progress is about to happen?

So yeah, there’s way more good than bad in this life, but do know if you’re planning on moving, working in another country, there is that never-ending cycle of lines you must stand, cry and sweat in.

Counting my blessings…

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First off Ramadan Kareem to my Muslim friends!  It’s the first day of a holy month of fasting, detoxing your spirit, being charitable and communing with God.  While I may not be Muslim, and I’m not even going to pretend that I’m fasting (I tried, but I just can’t go without water during the day, and let’s face it my cellulite demands to be fed too many times a day), I am grateful for this reminder to remember those who are not as fortunate as me, and to nourish my spiritual self.  And, to thank God for all of it!

It’s been a stressful few weeks, but the last two weeks have reminded me of how incredibly lucky I am.  I am so unbelievably touched by the people I work with.  My students blessed me with heartfelt notes and lovely gifts, all of which I’m taking to my new home.  Local teachers surprised me with heartfelt notes in English (which isn’t easy for them) and beautiful gifts (all of which are coming with me too!), and my fellow expat teachers took me to lunch and made me the most awesome, personal reminders of my time here, and how lucky I was to share it with all of them!  I am beyond words for how much I will miss everyone.  The job has had its horrible days, but oh my goodness the people I’ve met along the way are priceless.

I’m busy closing down my apartment, and it’s bittersweet.  Sometime this week my electricity and Internet will be shut off, and I’ll move in with Shannan until I leave for good.  Week after next I’m flying to Virginia for a few days to get some things done for my new job.  It took a month, but woo hoo I finally got the final word on my housing benefits, which are more than what I expected.  So, yes!   I can afford to take the job.  I cried for like 5 minutes and have been light on my feet ever since I got the “you’ve been approved” email.  I didn’t realise how much it was weighing me down.  I’m still not posting where this job is until I sign the final offer because I so don’t want to jinx it.  But, Joe and I are beyond excited.  I will tell you it’s not in Virginia (that’s just where HR is, and since I have friends and family there it’s the easiest stop for me to get fingerprints, etc. in) and that it’s for a Department of Defense school (holy moly I landed a DOD job — it’s only taken 4 or 5 years to get noticed!) somewhere on our planet.  No Mars schools yet.  As soon as I sign the final paper I’m blasting my news, and then you can all plan to come visit.

And, on that note, I need to get back to packing.  For the folks back home, enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!  I’ve attached a ton of love and gratitude to this post, so that you can all, hopefully, feel the good in this world too.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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While I get to travel the world and do many cool things and meet many cool people, these three are my most amazing accomplishment.  Despite my nagging and my constant “are you sure that’s a good idea?” I am so beyond-words grateful and proud of the souls I am blessed to have shared my womb and life with.

My kids aren’t into the Facebook or blogging thing, so they’re not gonna like me posting more pictures of them (lol nor will they see it — okay Kaylene will).  But screw it.  It’s my day, and I’m so sad to once again be away from them on a holiday.  So, of course, I can’t help but look through old pics and share.

I love my life and all the things that I am doing, but I do so miss being with my children who’ve grown into exactly the kind of adults I’m proud to be around.  They are each their own person, and I am so very proud of the way they choose to navigate their paths.

I’m digging this overseas thing, but me oh my do I long to be with my children.  I promise guys when I come back, Mama time is on!  And when the grand babies make their way into this world (no hurry!), I’ll have so many stories to wow them with — while you guys take your much-needed breaks.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of us!  I guess this also makes it happy kids day because we’re so darned happy to have them (lol even when we’re not)!

Okay, here comes the picture blast (sorry the baby pics are all in Arizona, otherwise I’d totally shame my kiddos with baby butt photos):

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In between the good is a bit of stress

Two Africa trips, Dubai weekends, brunches and parties, etc., etc.  As you all know I’ve been busy living it up.  But, there’s no such thing as all good.  Life likes to keep us in check.

During my first night in Kenya, while I was lounging on a porch swing, I got a message from Joe that Meiko had had her last day.   I knew I wouldn’t see her again when I left last summer, but, of course, I hoped I would.  I poured some gin on the ground and wished her well on her next journey.  I’m still saddened by her passing, and I worry about Badger since he’s a spaz to begin with, and now he’s missing his Meiko.  But he’ll be fine.  Death is part of the deal, and life will go on.

Meiko and bunnymeiko and bunny2

Sleep well my lil buddies.  Bunny is in both pics.  She passed my first year here.  They both lived a long and happy life, and ours had that much more love in it thanks to these two.

Toward the end of the Kenya trip I got an email for an interview for a school I’d love to work at in a location that Joe and I would both love to live at — a too good to be true kind of deal.  I interviewed that same day while surrounded by mangroves, monkeys and the Indian Ocean (definitely on the list as most memorable interview).  I was pretty sure I blew the interview, which of course stressed me out.  I lost too much sleep over what I should have said, but I figured lessons learned from this would better prepare me for the next big interview.  Three weeks later while I was in Egypt, I got the tentative offer for that job.   Africa must have good mojo for me on the job front!

Since it’s through the Department of Defense there’s a lot of paperwork and back ground checking involved, so I’m not jinxing myself by telling you where the job is until I’m much further along in the process (not that I’m expecting the background check to fail!).  That said it’s stressing me the eff out because you see I’m what they call a CONUS hire, which is meant for U.S. stateside folk.  Because I’m currently still working in the UAE I’m not yet back at my permanent residence in the U.S. (although I will be before moving to the new job) and that’s apparently making it unclear on whether or not I will qualify for a housing allowance and all the other financial perks that go with it.  The proper forms verifying my years of work are also not yet in, so the tentative salary is quite a bit lower than where I should be at, which I’ve been assured will change once years of experience have been properly approved.  Long story short, if things don’t work out as they should, I might not be able to afford to take my dream job, which — you guessed it — is stressing me out even more. This isn’t a job that opens up often, so if it doesn’t work out this time, it’s not gonna happen for me next year.   I’m sure it’ll all work out, but that’s not stopping negative me from doubting.  The biggest stresser is not hearing back from my HR rep.  I’m okay with jumping through hoops to get whatever documentation I need to get, but the empty inbox is killing me.  I feel like I’m in a bad dating scene again — why am I not getting return messages?!!!!  I’m so trying to do my part and if a paperwork glitch ruins this all for me I’m going to scream, possibly explode.

Work has also not been a barrel of fun.  We’re in our last days of teaching, so the girls are just a tad chaotic, but they’re not the ones really stressing me out.  It’s other craziness that is just best left unwritten.  This too will all pass soon, and before you know it I’ll be crying because it’s my last day. (lol today it’s tears of joy, but tomorrow it’ll be genuine sad-to-leave tears).

And then there’s the stress of getting rid of my stuff and getting things ready for my next move.  I also have to make sure I have enough saved to live off of until my end-of-service check from here clears, which may not happen until late August.

So, that’s about all that I have to whine about, and trust me I know what’s causing stress in my life isn’t nearly as bad as what other’s face.  Even if, heaven forbid (please don’t let this be so) I can’t afford to take the job, I still get to go home to my family and enjoy some down time.  So, it’s all good (um, ahem!  but powers that be I really, really want to keep the new job). [it’s best to attach as much positive, good vibes as possible]

Today I play with a bunch of friends and fill my belly with too many calories — so my poor jeans will also be stressed the hell out.  And, so will I when I step on the scale, but let’s save that one for another day.

OH and Happy Cinco Di Mayo!  I’m sure my friends back home will be whooping it up with a margarita and some nachos tonight.

Pyramids and the Nile, oh my!

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Sadly, I have to rush this post because I have so much going on right now.  Miss is too, too busy.  BUT, Brandy and I went to Egypt last weekend, and while it was too short of a trip it was still amazing.  I’ll first throw out a plug for our guide and driver.  They truly made this the perfect two-day trip.  It is because of them we got to see and do so much.  If you’re planning an Egypt trip, email ranymostapha@yahoo.co.uk.  He’ll customize the trip to what you’re looking for — and what you didn’t even know you were looking for.

Our first day was a doozy.  We landed around 7 a.m. and went straight to Giza.  Oh my goodness we got to see and learn so much, from pyramids, to tombs, to the sphinx, to mummification chambers, to cruising alongside Nile tributaries while farmers worked, to papyrus making, to rug weaving, to bread making, to thankfully finally sitting down to cold bevies and grilled meat.  When we finally checked into our gorgeous room at the Sofitel on the Nile, we were too pooped to do anything other than order room service and sip bevies from our balcony — okay to be honest mostly just from our beds, but it was an awesome balcony.

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Since I’m rushing through writing this, please read photo captions on slide show to get a taste.

One of our highlights was crawling up, into, down the very narrow steep ramp thingy, into the middle of Red Pyramid, then up the stairs to the tomb area, and then up and out of the pyramid.  It was very hot, and the ramp thing was narrow, and it was crazy to know we were inside a pharaoh’s tomb.  I saw the innards of an Egyptian pyramid!  We didn’t take pictures of the inside out of the respect for the dead, plus I don’t think we were allowed to.

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The entrance to pyramid and very red, hot us after surviving the climb.  LOL Brandy wasn’t happy with me.

Day two we focused on Cairo, and, again, another amazing day.  We visited the white mosque, the Egyptian museum, more I can’t remember right now, and walked through market streets, and ate lunch and smoked shisha with Rany in the midst of it all.  Another highlight was hearing the call to prayer from our balcony and from where we ate lunch.  I hear and enjoy it all of the time, but these two resonated with my spiritual self.  While my way of praying to Allah is different, it stirs me the same —- and Thank Our Powers That Be for the godly moments.

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The word Allah carved into a bush.  Best altar ever.

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Some Cairo scenes for you.  I’ll try to get back in and caption more later.

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As always it’s the people we meet along the way who make it memorable!

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And we ate and drank some amazing goodies!

As did the birds, who joined us for breakfast, which we ate alongside the Nile!

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Our breakfast view

Oh there’s more to share, but I’ve gotta go.  I just wanted to hurry and post something about our amazing time before I got too bogged down with all the other crazy going on in my life.

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Last but not least, woo hoo let’s embrace the world like this lil guy, bush, twig.  All I know is it seems to be really happy.

 

Safari!

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I’ve been busy readjusting to my real world, which included Michelle’s first Dubai brunch and good-bye happy hour.  I have around four more weeks of actual classes, and then it’s grading, paperwork and exam proctoring.  Plus, the whole selling my stuff and closing out my residency here.  It’s going to be a busy time that’ll fly by quickly.

So, before I get bogged down with all of that, let me blast you with safari pics and thoughts.  There are so many guides you can use, and we checked out a lot of them.  Our plan was to fly into Mombassa and do a 3-night tour that included Amboseli and one night at the Salt Lick Lodge.  We ended up going with Julius T. Safaris based of his fair price and good TripAdvisor reviews, and we’re glad we did.  Our driver Moses was awesome, and all of our accommodations were great.  Moses worked hard to make sure we were comfortable and seeing what we wanted to see.  Asante Sana and a big ole hug to him for making this such a great adventure for us.

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Cheers Moses!  We three taking a balcony break at Salt Lick Lodge.  My laptop is out, so I could hurry and post the lion pictures we got that day.   What a high that was!

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Safari girls coming out the roof!

I have so many pictures and stories to tell, but there’s not enough time to sort through them all.  All I know is driving through the savannah sunrise and sunset is pretty damned awesome stuff — even better is doing a night drive under the milky way with lions bellowing out their discontent.

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These two guys were sleeping when we crept up on them.  Before we got to them we were mostly marvelling at the night sky.  Michelle kept asking if we could turn the car lights off to see more falling stars.  Her request was ignored UNTIL we came up close to these two and woke them up.  Then our spotlight guy told Moses to shut the lights.  Mind you the roof was up, our windows were open, and there were lions just a jump or two away from us.  It was pitch black, except for the stars.  For the first time in my life I empathised with my dogs’ chew toys because I was pretty sure I’d share their fate.  Then the lights came back on, the boys got up, walked away and ROARED at us.  I might have peed a little.

We also got to see lions during the day.  The first time was on our second day of safari where we saw a lioness in the distance, later on in the late afternoon game drive we saw another lioness being chased by a herd of elephants.  Apparently, she was just too close to their babies for their liking.  She ran right across the road in front of our van.  This was our lion highlight until the next day when Moses pulled up to another snoozing couple.

My legs shook for a good while after this one.  Mama lion was all stretched out snoozing while Daddy patiently waited for her.  We were told they were on their honeymoon.

We were so high on adrenaline after that we needed a cocktail break overlooking the waterhole at Salt Lick.  It turned into a freak show for the birds.

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but we fed them

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We also got to watch monkeys drink and play.

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Another highlight of the trip was getting caught in the rain.  All of a sudden the skies just dumped on us and the herd of water buffalo nearby.  I have no pics of this to do it justice, but Michele posted video of our running with the bulls (and one day I’ll put together a video page for this blog).  Our van and the buffalo were hightailing it outta the mud together.  I swear we were living the National Geographic camera crew life.

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Dry buffalo wondering why I’m still clicking away — rain is gone in this pic, and so is the need to run.

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Elephants and zebras wowed us too!  Lol check out the wild ones in the bottom corner throwing out their “hey bitch!  whatcha doing?”

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But this lil guy was my fave

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And all of these animals amazed us too

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I literally have around 2,0000 photos to scan through, so this is just a taste of all the adorableness we saw, and, yes, I wanted to scrub every one of their bellies — even the lions.  But, I like my arms so I kept them to myself.

We also got to visit a Masai village.

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And there is so much more to share, but it is Thursday night, and I did just finish my first whole week of teaching again.  I don’t know who was more tired by the end of it — me or the girls.  And, I cannot believe just two weeks ago we were doing all of these amazing things. Luckily, the theme for this trimester is exploration and discovery, so I’ve got plenty I can share with my girls.

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Until the next time, here’s a tiny tree tough enough to live amongst the wild.

It’s okay. I brushed my teeth with gin

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Yes those are lions in the bush behind us…

Selfies by Michelle

First off let me say Kenya was ahhhmazing.  We had an unbelievably awesome experience.  This trip will go down as one of my absolute faves.  I’ll dedicate the next post to our 4-day safari, which included a night in Tsalvo East, a night in the prettiest tent I’ve ever slept in at Amboeseli park, and a night at Salt Lick lodge at Taita hills.  I’m still processing all that we saw during those four days.

This post will just show off some pics and remind folk of how adaptable you should become when traveling to an African country.  Lights and water pressure will go out, bugs will be big, baboons will bully you, snakes might end up in your room (it was a really tiny baby one, but holy hell did it scare us), and sweat will become your second skin.  You’ll see some shit, you’ll smell some shit (um sometimes literally), and you’ll taste and hear some shit, but me oh my if you can get past the stuff that you find ugly or unsettling you will be amazed by the grace and beauty that surrounds you.  If you can remember to live by Hakuna Matata and have a good sense of humour about it all, you’ll have a blast and do things like brush your teeth with gin when you realise whoops no bottled water.

Our first night was at Bamburi Beach in a place called Ziwa Beach Hotel, and it was perfect.  We slept in what felt like a tree house, which had an outdoor patio that included a swing and view of the beach and pool.  I’m not sure of all that we consumed, but the mosquitos didn’t have a chance with our blood. Luckily we also feasted on delicious vegetarian dishes that preserved the rest of our bodies.  Bright and early the next morning, our amazing driver Moses picked us up for our safari.  Four days later he dropped us off at the end of a long, oh-my-god-it-felt-like-it’d-never-end road, where a well-worn boat took us to Chalet island.  If you do nothing else in your life, by all means do try to find a way to spend a few days on Chalet island, around 60 kilometres from Mombassa.  It is everything you imagined a tropical island to be.  For those of you who remember Fantasy Island, I totally expected Tattoo to announce our arrival.

There is only one resort on the island, The Sands, but it’s a good one with three lovely pools (one of them right across from the mangrove forest), a stunning beach, bright and cheery African decor, A/C humdallah that works!, and friendly staff.  The baboons not so much, and I’m still ticked at the one who almost peed on us, but, for the most part, they’re chased away.  Monkey drama is all part of the fun.  I totally plan on visiting again with Joe.

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Pool in a mangrove forest…yes, please

A few tips before I blast you with more pics.  Make sure you have a lot of 100 Kenya shilling or American dollar bills.  The people at the island resort or any of the hotels we visited don’t pester you for tips, but you’ll want to tip them.  It can get a little overwhelming every where you go because staff members are so helpful, and they deserve every shilling you give them.   Also, bring some candy and school supplies for the kids.  It totally slipped my mind to pack these things, and it drove me crazy that I couldn’t give them to the kids we met in rural areas.  Tourists are approached quite a bit by people trying to sell one thing or another, but if you politely say no and let them know you’re adamant about that no, they’ll thank you and move on.  Some will stay and chat and really just want to laugh with you —- whalla!  Not a single Kenyan treated me poorly, including the many, many people I said no to.

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Take for example “Mr. Coconut,” whose souvenirs I did not buy, but he still walked me to a cove to show off these unreal starfish.

And then there is the nature.  My words are useless here..

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Mt Kilmanjaro

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Even seaweed looks good

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Good Moring sun!  Photo taken by Michelle

And there is so much more to show you!  But, I’m still on vacation finishing off my final off day in Dubai.  I’ll post more when I have time and better wifi.  I’ve only a few thousand photos to choose from.  Animal lovers there are a ton of wildlife photos waiting to say hi to you.

La La Salama until next time!

My Mundane

 

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I see camels every day on my work commute, so you’d think I get tired of seeing them.  Nope.  Here they are sunning themselves on a Dubai beach.

Work is finally easy again, and I have a week and a few days before I’m on spring break, so woo hoo to that.  It’s much needed after surviving inspection week, and then final marking, plus a night class and an online class I need to try and finish before Michelle arrives next week.

I’ve been keeping myself busy with the kind of stuff we do here.  I’ve happy houred with friends, I’ve cooked yummy, healthy meals, lol and I’ve gone out and ate yummy non healthy meals, I’ve  eaten dinner and watched movies/t.v. with friends, I’ve treated myself to an amazing spa day, and I’ve gone to Dubai and beached it, chilled with friends.  Basically doing my version of the mundane, which will transition into another version of mundane in about 5 months.   Good news is I love my routine, every day stuff because boring it aint.

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Karak and roses the day after inspections ended.  I will never tire of the girls giving me flowers.  The tea cart coming around was a treat from our admin, and in case they’re reading — I’d never tire of receiving that every day either!

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Free veggies from a stranger!  I’ve discovered a cauliflower alfredo sauce that is to die for and made roasted beets and broccoli — yum, yum.  Now, if only I could keep enjoying the veggies and stay away from the breads and pastries I might actually get rid of my buddha belly.  But, alas, I’m a locust I eat everything in sight.

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Oh Dubai … you’re so random.  So, if you cross between the creek/marina area and Jumeirah beach you might find some interesting cross guards to help you out.  Of course traffic wasn’t a problem this time of the morning, but thanks dudes for being willing to take one for the team in case a speeder decided not to stop!

Kicking up my feet and relaxing in Dubai.  LOL um those are penguins on my feet — not the best nail art considering when you look down they look more like cartoonish burqas.  Totally NOT my intent!

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Oh Dubai you’re also oh so beautiful … just our view during a morning walk.

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Me all clean and spiffy after a hammam, massage and facial!

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Me before my spa day!

And that’s all I’ve got for you now, but lots of fun things planned the next few weeks, so hang in there I’m sure I’ll have more to post soon.

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