Monthly Archives: April 2015

Cruising and camping

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So, this is what I did this weekend. A dhow cruise somewhere in Oman.

I swear I’m not on some mad race to fill up my passport with border stamps.  Living here just gives us such easy, inexpensive access to so many places I could never afford if I were still living in the states.  At home we’d go up north on a camping trip somewhere in the Arizona mountains (which is as wonderful an experience!), over here it’s a camping trip on a beach somewhere in Oman.  And yeah, I know I should know the name of the place I slept, but I didn’t plan this little trip — my friends did, and I just tagged along.

For my UAE friends I highly recommend the dhow/camping trip, but I wouldn’t do it now.  It’s getting toasty — wait until next year during the cooler months.  That said, we still managed to have a fantastic time.

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Anchor’s up, time to set sail.  whoop! whoop!

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you board your dhow by walking from one boat to the next, which adds to the fun.

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And we’re off

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A dhow grave yard?

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scenes from inside the boat

Basically, it’s a bunch of carpets and pillows for you to lounge (and/or nap) on.  There were only around 15 people on our boat, so we had plenty of room, and it was fun getting to know each other.  The captain, and I guess his mate (a young man who loves making sound effects and smiled so much we called him Capt Smiley), make sure you’re well hydrated with water and sodas and well fed with fresh fruit, grilled fish, chicken, rice and other goodies.  They also make sure to steer into coves where tiny fishing villages thrive and dolphins play.

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If you look between the two boats you will see some dolphins. DSC07155

I swear a dolphin jumped right there in front of us …. right there, but I was too into the dolphin to press the shutter.

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I did, however, catch some dolphin tail

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Is there anything more magical than a boy on a boat looking for dolphins?  This kid and his sister were adorable.  Their mother was Italian, father British — both are teachers — and it was fun listening the family go back and forth between English and Italian.  We also had a good time playing with the children, as did their parents (notice same boy catching a ride on dad’s back).

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Capt Smiley dove into the water to bring up a sea urchin for us to see.  this little critter crawled around on deck until he was thrown back into the water.DSC07206DSC07202

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We also got to see a lot of birds,  tropical fish and baby jellyfish (sorry don’t have a waterproof camera).  For the record, baby jellyfish sting too, but they only got us a few times and they were tiny stings.

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Oh look we also spotted humans!

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And a lot of centuries-baked rock, which didn’t stop us from jumping off the dhow into the amazing teal water.

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hehehe dolphin butts…

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Beware of your friends!

After a day of swimming, boating, napping on deck, we traded in our dhow for a rickety speed boat, which dashed us around a few rocky bends to camp.

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The green tents are the facilities, which were kept quite clean.  We had a blast playing Cards Against Humanity, feasting on dinner, night swimming in the crystal-clear water, which was now black (except for when you woke the plankton, and then you were surrounded by minuscule underwater fireflies), and smoking shisha by our camp fire.

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Capt Smiley also kept an eye on camp while we slept.DSC07253

I cannot tell you how happy Shannan was when M (an Omani heart throb — oh how we’ll miss him coming up to our table to politely let us know of the next activity) said she could light our fire.

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She was also pretty pleased with the puppy flashlight.  Me thinks she’s addicted to light.

I fell asleep with sand and salt in my hair and the sound of the sea caressing our beach.

I awoke to this.

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That’s M making us coffee … oh and the sunrise is quite nice too

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Of course we have a ton more pics, but I have to get some things done for work, and, well, some pics are meant just for us and not the blog.

I thank all the gods and powers that be for the amazing times I get to experience.  I am so touched I get to spend my time meeting so many wonderful people in so many wonderful places.

One of the positives which can also be a negative to all of this fun, is we become more connected to the world.  I have not yet traveled to Nepal (but Joe and I will go there one day), but my Sri Lanka traveling buddy (and neighbor wine daughter) is there now.  She loves everything about that area and went to spend the weekend with friends.  She and her friends are okay, but my heart goes out to all of them.  The more I get to travel, the smaller this world becomes, and the more relatives I gain.

Love and healing wishes to a people I haven’t yet met.  I am so sorry this has happened to you.

 

 

 

Just chilling on a work night

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Love this pic Ashley took of me when I was watching the sun set, and a commuter train (below) go by, while soaking in a rooftop infinity pool.  Seriously, life does not get much better than that

It’s almost 8 p.m. on a Tuesday (my hump day). I’m on my balcony, sipping a glass of french grapes, watching Bibin (the man I affectionally call the Indian on the roof) move my car (so that he can wash it…how awesome is that?) while listening to the vehicles buzz by on the E-22, the road that leads to Abu Dhabi city.  It’s gratefully cooler than it’s been, but still hot by anyone-who-doesn’t-live-in-a-desert-or-tropical-place standards.

Oddly enough there’s also a traffic jam in front of my complex.  Yesterday a big-ass tent with an industrial generator and a/c unit as well as water tank popped up on the plot of land between my road and the E-22.  It has a canopy leading to it’s entrance, carpets and throne chairs.  Shannan and I saw the servants enter yesterday, and some big shin dig took place.  I assumed it was a wedding.  Going by the amount of cars pulling up and parking every which way, I’m thinking something else is going down tonight.  Wish I knew what it was, but I don’t think it’s a wedding.  Hmmmm, something new for me to discover.  Maybe when I take my evening walk tomorrow there will be someone around I can ask about it.  Inshallah they speak English.

I’m still discovering so much about this place I now call home.

I work until July, but it seems I have only around 4, maybe 5, weeks of actual teaching left.  Apparently, my girls will quit coming the end of May, returning for a week or two in June to take their finals, and then khalas.  Can you believe?  I can’t.  While the first trimester slogged by, the rest of this year has flown by as fast as an Emirate SUV (hehehe I’m teaching similes right now and might just share that one with them).

I’m so at peace with my decision to come here.  While there’s so much I miss about ‘home,’ there is now so much I embrace about here.  The irony of it all is I will once again be homesick when I do return to my own country.  It’s a catch 22, damn it!

And, I know I still owe you my posts about Jordan and Michelle’s visit.  I promise they will come.  I’ve just been busy readjusting to the whole work thing (and, well, I had some fun this past weekend too —- so much for my promise to myself to be a couch potato).  While I said I was going to take it easy and not do any more traveling before the summer, it seems I lied because I’m going on a dhow cruise and overnight camping trip somewhere in Oman this weekend.  So, I won’t get to post much until maybe next week, but I swear I will get to those Jordan pics and the recount of Michelle’s time here.  We truly had an amazing time, and I have some fun photos to share.

For now I’ll just share some pics Ashley sent me of our Sri Lanka trip, which now seems so long ago.  Ha!  It was just over a week ago.  And for you financial freaks out there, yes I am also still paying my bills and saving money.

11180118_10205693452489872_25504421_n hahahaha this is so cheesy, but screw it we’re cheesy girls.11095342_10205693453649901_1658227969_n

Ashley’s looking hot while I totally dork out here next to our lovely guide.  He lives in the village alongside the river.  This young man wakes to tropical birds singing, earns his keep by riding rapids all day and yanking tourists out of the water (yep after we went for a swim, he pulled both of us back into the boat — dude has strength!), and goes to bed at night while monkeys play on his roof.  And I thought my life was good.

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Hahahaha yep I totally felt like the jolly green giant next to Chomi’s family.  Just call me the blonde sasquatch!  And below is a shot of the meal they cooked for us.  People, I’m telling you if you’ve never had curried pumpkin you must give it a try, and the coconut, lime chili thing is spicy but oh so good.  Oh wait and they also had a boiled cashew dish that was quite tasty.  Maybe if I ate Sri Lankan food all the time, I wouldn’t be so Amazonian.

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And my sunset, goodbye photo.  Yeah I know … again with the cheesy poses, but hot damn look at that sunset.  Amazing.

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oh and wait.  I also finally sent another blog post to TeachUAE.  I finally got to meet my editor and Leisa, a fellow writer who always has something nice to say.  I like them even more now that we’ve met, so I sorta feel like I gotta get on the ball and write more for them too.  Here’s a link to the last post (if you’re a new hire scrolling through sites, please do read through all of their blog posts and articles; it’ll give you a taste of what you’re in for):  http://teachuae.com/same-same-but-oh-so-different/

Beaches and beautiful beasties, final Sri Lanka post

11149384_10205602660780136_7840875313913000014_nBeach sunset photo taken from Ashley’s Facebook account.  But yeah it was that awesome, with a rainbow behind us.

The food, the mountains, the temples, the people are all such a wonderful joy to experience in Sri Lanka — and then there are the beaches and let’s not forget the wildlife.  Like I said in my last post it’s a magical place.  Our last three nights were spent near the ocean.  Two nights were at a resort in Beruwala  (here’s a link to it http://www.palmsberuwala.com).  It was peaceful and stunning and, best of all, not crowded.  We practically had the beach to ourselves, although we did meet up with some fun folks from Israel.  One night we ventured off the resort to ‘party’ at a hut bar on the beach.  While the sign said bar, all they had was the local beer and a bottle of gin we could buy off an old man.  What the heck, we opted for the gin.  Besides a few locals, we were the only customers there, but we had a great time singing Bob Marley songs and drinking really bad gin.  It’s all good, afterward we went for an ocean swim and then a pool swim before going to bed, which I swear washed away any real hangover (thank god!).

The next day we were off to play with baby turtles, eat a lovely lunch at another hut-on-the-beach place, and take a poolside nap.  Two days at a beach resort is not enough time —- next time I’m making sure I have more beach days built in, and I totally plan on seeing more beaches as well.

We didn’t ask about the tsunami, but a local told us that area was damaged by it and that the beach landscape is different now.  I don’t think I knew Sri Lanka even existed before then, and now that I’ve been there I cannot imagine the horror it was for these people. There is no where to run to.  Our driver told us it took them by such a surprise because while they certainly get flooding and landslides from rain, they’ve never experienced a tsunami before.  At least with the rain you know it’s coming.

Our last night was spent in Colombo.  We were expecting our hotel to be a dud, but it was lovely.  We were on the 8th floor with a beautiful view of the beach and the commuter train that runs parallel to it.  And, yep, that train is packed with people, some hanging out the doors.  Next time I will also try out the train.  We met a couple from Ireland who said it goes up into the mountains with some amazing views.

Before arriving at the beach we visited the elephant orphanage, which was a bit of a letdown because there were so many people there, and it felt touristy.  But, I got to spend time near elephants, and that was cool.  I love the fact that elephants and monkeys roam freely there.  Sadly poaching has taken its toll there as well, which is why the orphanage was originally created.

And, I’m rambling away not knowing where I want to go next with this post — because, again, there’s just so much to share.  So, just going to blast some photos and captions to tell the rest of the story.

11148771_10205602688460828_1260504328040459568_nWe got to go white water rafting during one of our drives.  I think the one that eventually brought us to beach resort.  OMG it was a lot of fun, and we also got to swim in the river.  The mist rose above the mountains, birds sang, monkeys called out — it was totally something out of an Anaconda movie BEFORE the snakes arrived.  (photo taken from Ashley’s page)

2015-04-08 10.45.22jungle near the river bank.  This is when Ashley got to see me freak out because I walked into a spider web with a spider in it.  We both survived.

2015-04-08 06.25.26 hahaha the omelet guy made me face eggs. 2015-04-07 14.43.45I wish my phone could’ve done these landscapes justice.

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2015-04-07 08.57.13 and fake tusks!

2015-04-07 08.45.51 2015-04-07 08.17.51 2015-04-07 08.07.52um, big elephant is telling lil elephants to Get A Room!  Kids are watching!  yep, zoom in it’s what you think it is.

2015-04-07 07.52.23And a baby elephant getting fed.

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A snake charmer performed in the lobby.  I was so freaking scared.  Those are 3 cobras dancing and sometimes striking at him.  He brought out a baby one too, and he walked around the lobby showing us a hissing viper.  I discovered that we Americans do not own the title of stupid tourists.  Some Europeans from various countries wanted to hold the viper or get too close to the cobras. I swear I thought one lady was going to step on the cobra basket.  I was like WTF!  Back up people.

2015-04-08 13.02.50One of the best treats of all:  our driver Chomi!  He brought us to meet his family, which isn’t something he normally does (but I like to think he thought we were special— or maybe he just really missed his wife and knew we loved the local cooking).  His wife and mother cooked us a fantastic lunch, and Chomi being the cool dude he is bought Ashley and me a couple of bottles of Lion (the local) beer — they don’t drink.  It made my day seeing how proud and loved he and his family are, and I’m so grateful they shared that with us.

If you ever decide to book a trip to Sri Lanka, I highly recommend the tour company we used.  They’ll customize it to what you want, and we thought their prices were good.  Be sure to ask for Chomi as your driver.  It’s because of him we got so much of the local flavor, and I think he had a good time with us as well.  (link to tour agency:  http://www.alphatravels-holidays.com).  If you message me I’ll pass along the booking agent we used email info.

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and for now it’s good night Sri Lanka. Until the next time!

Temples & Tea, Sri Lanka

Our 2nd and 3rd days were spent touring several temples and driving up into mountain territory, where tea is born.  I wish I took the time to write when we were there, so that I could better capture the magic of this place.  I liked being in a predominantly Buddhist country.  Animals, for the most part, roam freely.  Whiz through a windy mountain road, and whoop there’s cattle grazing off the side, or dogs napping partially on the road, and, yet, no roadkill.  I don’t know how they do it, but I like it.  It’s really a miracle these animals survive because the driving here makes the UAE look incredibly tame; it’s amazing the people survive too. I don’t think we witnessed a single car accident, which must be because of divine intervention.  Two-lane roads easily can fit 4, maybe 5, rows of traffic — tuk tuks, busses, motorcycles and all other vehicles meshed in together.

Luckily, we had a great driver, so we could kick back, relax, and enjoy the scenery.  The landscape is so incredibly green and lush.  So many colors in the temples, and so many colors in the towns and countryside.  I will never forgot how incredibly beautiful the drives were.

I’m back at work now, so my brain is dead and won’t adequately describe all that we saw and did, but my pictures might help some.  Forgive me, but I’m just blasting you with some unedited phone photos and an occasional caption.  I HAVE to go back to do this country more justice.

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these last 4 temple shots were taken from the cave temple, which was really amazing. It was also suffocatingly hot, but worth every sweat bead.  Here’s a link to better pics (on google).  cave temple sri lanka

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Yes there’s a man rubbing stuff on us.  It was really awkward, but we learned a lot about where so many of our spices come from.  FYI:  back up when your spice guide is pointing tumeric at you — because he’s gonna rub that shit on your nose.

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These colorful photos come from a temple in a small town.  I wish I could tell you it’s name.2015-04-06 11.30.07 2015-04-06 11.30.18 2015-04-06 11.34.11 2015-04-06 11.35.10 big-bellied bitches rule!2015-04-06 11.40.06 2015-04-06 11.40.36

Some street shots for you.  It’s cooler watching all of this in real life, but here you go…2015-04-06 11.48.15-2 2015-04-06 12.03.40 2015-04-06 12.04.24 2015-04-06 12.44.11tuk tuk

This next batch of photos are from Kandy.  There’s a beautiful lake and the famous tooth relic temple.  We also watched a cultural show, which ended with men walking on hot coals.

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And now I’m giving you a quick glimpse of mountain life.  There are rows and rows and rows of tea here, and the women pick the tea even when it’s raining.

2015-04-07 12.04.36 2015-04-07 13.25.00 2015-04-07 13.25.43 2015-04-07 13.31.50 2015-04-07 13.32.57  And that’s all that I have for you tonight.  Next up is all about the beaches and animals…

Hey there! It’s been a while.

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Oh have I been busy having fun, which is why you haven’t seen much from me.  That’s okay because I’ll be blasting you with all sorts of posts, which may take me a few weeks to finish.  I had a fantastic time with Michelle’s visit, which seems so long ago.  She landed March 16, and we rarely stopped to rest.  I don’t know who had more fun discovering (and in some cases rediscovering) my new home — her, me or the friends who got to play along with us.

The day she left (last Saturday) I headed on over to Sri Lanka for a week, and oh my goodness what a beautiful country that is!  I wrote a few blog posts along the way, and just stored them in my iPad.  So, tonight I’ll just go ahead and copy and paste my first Sri Lanka post here with some pics, and then my next few posts will fill you in on the rest of Sri Lanka trip, Michelle’s and my Jordan trip, and last, but certainly not least, the rundown of all that we did in the UAE.

Going back to work today was a bit of a shock for me, but luckily it was an easy day.  I’m telling you I could totally do the vacation thing full time!  Okay, here’s my first words about Sri Lanka:

The eve of Easter Sunday

I am on a rattan lounge chair in front of my villa overlooking a pond filled with lillies.  Soon the monkeys will return and drop things on the roof above my bed.  I am in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and I’m here without my cameras.  My crappy phone will just have to do the trick — let’s see what we can capture.

Today is such a bittersweet day.  I was supposed to arrive in Sri Lanka late last night with a dear friend, but luck was not on her side.  For whatever reason the booking company screwed up her ticket, and she was not allowed on the plane.  Thinking this would get fixed, I checked in her bag, and she held on to my camera bag.  Sadly, it’s just not in the cards for her to come.  I’d put both the airline and booking company on blast here, but it’s better I don’t because I don’t want to offend the wrong people, and I do so love the life I’m blessed with living on this end of the world.

I’m angry and hurt for my friend, but I know she will get the chance to come here — and I’d be happy to come again with her.  So this time around Ashley (my other buddy in crime for this trip) and I will pave the way and ear mark the must dos for the next trip and delete whatever could be missed.

As for today, nothing should be skipped.  We hiked the famous mountain that looks like a massive rock.  I can’t remember its name, but when I have Internet and more time I’ll google and place the names.  Note to those of you who will one day do this be adamant with the young men who want to help you up the steep steps.  We kept telling them we could do it ourselves, but they kept saying we work here, and held our arms allegedly pushing us up the stairs. It was awkward because my guy was practically pushing me into Ashley’s bum, but we made it to the plateau where the boys ask you to rest and enjoy the view, before resuming the climb.

[Holy shit it’s raining flowers right now!  flowers and twigs.  freaking fairytalish awesome. And oh shit I just heard something big plunk into pond — um, they have monitor lizards here, so I’m rushing back into our little villa to finish this]

Okay, back to the pesky boys.  While we’re ‘resting’ and taking in the view, the ‘helpers’ tell us they can help us up the rest of the mountain.  How is beyond me because you basically climb a bunch of stairs. Unless they plan on carrying me on their back, there’s not much help they can do.  Anyway, we politely say no, and then the bid for money begins.  “1000 rupies for our work.”  We didn’t give them that, but after haggling (even though we didn’t think we should pay) we gave them some bucks from 3 countries — they seemed happy with that.

After the climb we were treated to a village tour.  First we got in an ox cart, where our bull Sewdoo (which means white, and is also a term of endearment for girlfriends —- um, Joe if you’re reading don’t ever call me your white ox), pulled us to a lake.  Then we climbed aboard a a small pontoon boat where two men paddled us through lillies and trees, our guide excitedly pointing out local birds.  The men made necklaces out of lilly flowers for us and explained the medicinal uses for their seeds. Then we were treated to a lesson by three lovely women who cooked us an amazing meal, which we ate in a hut made of clay and ox dung (no smell I swear).  The food was so good — even the thing made out of leaves. The curried pumpkin was my favorite — oh and this coconut, chilli thing, oh and the little, fat (Aaron would call them choad) bannanas.  Oh and we also ate salted pineapple — can you tell I really loved that meal.

After that it was pool time while the monkeys played, a nap and then dinner and a walk.  Pretty amazing day.  Tomorrow we drive to Kandy and visit some temples along the way.

2015-04-05 08.47.51this is actually another flight of stairs at the top.  At the top of this is where a king who had 500 wives lived.  He would climb to the bottom to be with them.  Apparently, the women bathed and hung out at the pools at the bottom just waiting for their exhausted husband.

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washing our hands before the big meal.

2015-04-05 10.09.38 2015-04-05 10.02.33 2015-04-05 09.59.00ox cart11100090_10205575398898606_8613457675605581242_n11128772_10205575403138712_9091452627098325116_n11064757_10205575401058660_2843321331961700476_ndrinking coconut water, and the big rock in background.  I know we have better pics to post, but this gives you a taste of day one — pretty awesome considering I didn’t sleep the night before!

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