Monthly Archives: May 2015

First Amendment reminder

This blog is all about my wandering life and the joys (and sometimes sorrows) it brings me, which is why there’s really no reason for me to ever write about politics or religion.  But, I’ve noticed an increase of anti-Muslim social media posts — including some from people I know and love.  I wish it was just angry posts, but protests and angry people are also making headlines.  Before I go further I know there are more fellow Americans out there who don’t think this way, but it seems our angry, hurt voices are getting most of the attention.

And all of us have every right to be pissed off about any of the multitude of extremist groups out there.  They suck and they do horrible things to good people — most of them also Muslim.  Extremist groups try to annihilate anyone who is against them.  That is ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaaeda or any of the other groups out there like them.  That is not Islam.

To protest AMERICAN mosques because of terrorist actions is like blaming all Christian faiths for the workings of the Klu Klux Klan.  I already hear the rhetoric of “but Christians don’t behead people for speaking bad about them.”  Guess what?  neither do most Muslims.  Murder is also a sin to them — despite what others (including extremists)  might tell you.

I’m not Muslim, nor do I have any desire to ever convert to that faith. I’d make a lousy Muslim, and I’m okay with that, and the people I work with (hello?  mostly Muslim) are cool with that too. I do my thing; they do their’s.

Despite my lust for discovering other lands and people, I do so love where I come from.  We’re supposed to be the land of  freedoms.  Good God we have the first amendment, which gives us the right to pray to whatever version of God (or lack of God) we desire.  We also have the right to be as prejudiced and anti whatever as we want to be, but that doesn’t mean we have the right to harass people at their places of worship (or on the streets or their homes, but that’s a whole other story).  We’re supposed to be better than that, and we’re supposed to be better than giving in to hate.

Sadly, I type this knowing the anti-Islam movement is not our only form of angry bigotry, but I’m going to stick to the Islam piece because quite frankly it’s just too damned embarrassing to discuss our other great divide.

If my words are currently pissing some readers off, they’re not meant to.  I love my people.  Just please oh please don’t violate the words of our constitution.   Don’t condemn a whole religion and ostracize fellow Americans for how they pray because of what others do in the name of their faith.  To do so could only bring out more hate and bring us to a place we don’t want to go — and without knowing it in essence (hopefully never the same level of violence) people who give in to what others tell them is true are doing the same thing as the ignorant young who join extremist groups.  They too are being told we (including our Muslim counterparts) are the enemy; let’s not become their stereotype.

And to prove the Internet is not just for spreading our uglies, I nabbed this:  Leviticus 19:18
“‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.

Half a century….

IMG-20150518-WA0001thanks Kendra for taking and sending this pic!

So I hit the big Five Oh this week, and I’ve discovered that there is such a thing as too much cake.  Celebrations began the weekend before my big day and will probably end tonight at another wine/tapas event (although we’re going to that for fun not my birthday), but no wait there’s our upcoming Emirates Palace weekend, sooooo I may end up celebrating all the way until my 51st birthday.

I can honestly say I have never, ever had this much birthday cake in my life.  My fabulous co-workers threw a party and gave me the best gifts (my favorite is the jar of 50 my-kind-of jokes).  The weekend prior I celebrated with my girls at a lovely Thai restaurant on Saadiyat Island (and there was some whooping it up the night before that as well).  Jamil, the manager at our favorite Syrian restaurant (Al Taahi in Al Ain), went all out with cake, food, music and even a little dancing from his kids and kitchen staff.  And, all of my classes threw me ‘surprise’ birthday parties — never on the same day.  Soo, for the past week I’ve inhaled more carbs and sugar than my poor 50-year old body should handle.  Dieting really needs to begin ASAP.

I was a little sad about not being able to bring in this milestone year with my loved ones, but my new loved ones made sure I didn’t waste too much time thinking about that.  I am one very lucky girl — oh wait now that I’m 50 does that put me into the adult category?

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some of my birthday cakes.  Didn’t get photos of them all.  Hahaha Jamil was upset that we didn’t celebrate Shannan’s birthday with him, so his birthday party was for both of us. Hence the photo of us both.

IMG-20150518-WA0016  2015-05-18 17.59.28um yeah so not hungry now.

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Jamil made sure I had fruit and veggies too.

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Love Jamil’s family, and his dancing kitchen crew, AND all the food.

2015-05-21 09.13.07 my girls feasting on the grub they brought

2015-05-15 18.39.33my other girls pre Thai grub.  The sunset behind us was beautiful.

There are better pics to post, but for some reason they didn’t upload, and well, I’m too lazy to fight technology today.

I’d like to say I’m laying low until summer vacation plans kick in, but I’ve got something planned each weekend.  It’s a hard life.  And, sometimes, really it is.  If I were home right now today would be the day I’d be picking up my lump-sum check for the summer, and I’d be whooping it up in my pool.  So yay for all my teacher friends back home!  Boo that I’m still on the clock until July, but I’ll catch up with all of you in a few months!

Michelle’s trip….

DSC06464 Well, hello there Darlink!.

As you all know, Michelle came to visit back in March.  We posted some Facebook pics along the way, but I’ve been promising a rundown of some of what we did — just to give my future visitors a taste of what to expect (heaven help my wallet and liver!).  Basically, besides the Jordan trip, we surrounded ourselves with luxury, good food and friends.

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Abaya fashion in front of the grand mosque.  I like having a shayla on in the wind, but I could do without the abaya when it’s hot.  But, it’s worth sweating  a little to hear the call to prayer while in the grand mosque.

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Gold-laced coffee, pastries and gold vending machines are totally in at the Emirates Palace, a 7 star hotel with a price tag to match.  FYI:  I’m so excited to be spending a night there in June thanks to a sale for gulf residents.  It’s still expensive, but Shannan and I can afford to splurge and split the cost — something we wouldn’t be able to do with their normal prices.

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DSC06705IMG_1233IMG_1222the view of the hotel’s beach through one of their windows — cannot tell you how excited I am to be able to go there in a few weeks.

DSC06666 Boat docks near Intercontinental (where I ‘lived’ my first week in Abu Dhabi).  These two are dangerous together.  They wanted to hop on a yacht …. they had to settle for a quick foot on the boat shot.

DSC06654 One of our Abu Dhabi nights began at a Brazilian restaurant, where beefcakes cut up sizzling meat in front of us — don’t know which made us drool more.  Why yes that is a slab of beef covering Shannan’s face.

DSC06650  DSC06676 DSC06664 will never tire of sipping cocktails and enjoying this view.

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Another Abu Dhabi night we celebrated Shannan’s birthday at Burlesque in the Viceroy.  We loved staying there.

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When we weren’t doing the posh and nonfamous, we spent time lounging on the beach or at a pool.

IMG_1019 IMG_1270 IMG_1269some Abu Dhabi beach views.

It wasn’t all glamour and parties though.  We spent some time in Al Ain as well.  Michelle got to visit my school, a student’s house and my favorite local spots.  I’ve decided it’s a good thing I don’t live in Abu Dhabi city because let’s face it I’d be totally broke whooping it up way more than I can afford.  Here’s a link to the blog Michelle and I wrote about visiting my student:  Home Visit

And, here’s a link to Michelle’s post about visiting my school:  School Visit

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And then, of course, there was Dubai.  We loved the shisha stage we got to sit on.  There’s so much more I could share, but I’ve got to get on with the day.  I know there are better pics I could post, but there are hundreds to sift through.  Hopefully, one day I’ll organize it all.

Until next time, here’s a healthy fruit shot to all of you (seriously no liquor in this one).  Cannot wait wait to share this with my next visitor, whomever you may be!

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Jordan! Finally…

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It seems so long ago since Michelle’s and my visit, but it was less than two months ago!  We were only there for four days, but we packed a lot in — including climbing to the top of Petra without the help of those poor beasts of burden.  Trust me the donkeys that trek up and down the mountain earn the burden title.  We just couldn’t add to their misery.

I wish I would have taken the time to write while we were there, but I didn’t, so I’ll do my picture/caption blast to tell the story.  But, first I’d like to sum it all up by telling you a little bit about two young men Ashley and I met in Sri Lanka.  They were brothers from Israel.  They were kind, clever and a lot of fun.  They were so excited about their visit to the turtle hatchery earlier in the day.   Their zest for life and mannerisms reminded me of my sons back home, who like these two have no desire to wreak havoc in anyone’s life.  When I said I was in Jordan just the week before, one of them said, “We can’t go there.”  It stunned me because Israel shares the dead sea with Jordan, and yet they cannot cross each other’s border.  Syria also borders Jordan, which is something I wouldn’t have thought much about if it weren’t for the frequent military checkpoints throughout Jordan, as well as the airport-style security check before entering any resort.

I’ve never been to Israel or Syria, but if the people there are anything like the Jordanians we met (and the two Israelis) it’s hard for me to understand why there is still this much conflict.  I know there’s more to it all than my simple, touristy eyes can see (so please don’t think I’m being insensitive to the horrors that take place any where in the world), but I wish all of you could see how beautiful and normal this part of the world can be.  I’ll stop with my “if the world could sing in perfect harmony” stuff, but truly I wish we could.

As for Michelle and I, we were awed by Jordan’s beauty, hospitality and variety of treasures.

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the hills are alive … and, yes, I was surprised by how much green we saw there!

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Ancient ruins in the capital, Amman

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Even more ancient are the ruins in Petra.  Joe wants to visit here, so I’m sure I’ll be back.  Next time I will stay in the modern city of Petra and spend two days hiking around.  Michelle and I hired a driver to pick us up from our Dead Sea resort, bring us to Petra, and then back to our resort.  This meant a total of 6 hours driving, which was also cool because we got to see the sunrise and all sorts of countryside.   (sorry the pics below are not in order, but you get the idea)

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Michelle at one of the plateaus before reaching the top.  You keep going up and up, thinking you’re almost there, and then bam you realize you’re not.IMG_1457

We get to look tiny for a change.  The Monastery, was probably a temple first,  is really close to the tippy top, but just look how massive that building carved into rock is.  To learn more about Petra and its history (and, yes, you’ve seen some of its ruins in an Indiana Jones flick), click here.

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some of those gazillion stairs that lead to the top.  Vendors, who we think live on site, sell along the way.

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of course we made friends with the people in front of us — going up those stairs.  They were kind enough to take a photo of us taking a break in some much needed shade.IMG_1410

tacky tourist time.  Come on, admit it, I’m sexy in those black socks!IMG_1366

poor babies work hard for their owners’ money.  There were also camels and horses you could ride.  While we felt sad for the animals, we did enjoy the banter with some of their peddlers.  Some of them had kohl around their eyes and braided hair, which made them look like Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow.  They flirted and joked away trying to talk us into paying for a ride.  Alas, their charm did not get our asses on their asses.

DSC_0514 Although we did talk a man into letting Michelle ride his camel for a few minutes, so she could experience the fun of the mount and dismount.  Hahahaha getting to watch your friend do this for the first time: priceless! The camel seemed amused as well.

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the first part of your hike is going through a rock canal, which is beautiful in itself.  DSC06735

the sun waking up while we’re headed to Petra.DSC06754

the rock had so many layers of color, which changed when the sun shifted. This reminded me so much of Sedona in Arizona.  DSC06743

The romans are coming! or maybe they’re supposed to be the Greeks (damn don’t know my military garb).  Okay, so this was tacky.  You gotta feel for the locals earning some dirhams dressing up as Roman or Greek or whatever  guards.  I realize I’m not being a very good teacher right now by not finding out the correct details for you.DSC_0526 DSC_0469

the wild beasts we met at the top.  Puma kittens — okay, whatever, they’re just kittens, but I like my version better.  As you can tell they didn’t mind snuggling up to us either.DSC_0458  At the top looking down at the massive monastery.  It doesn’t look so big there does it?DSC_0453_2 DSC_0451 DSC_0449

well shit I am in Arizona…DSC_0437 DSC_0432 DSC_0427  OMG our freshly squeezed juice was so needed when we got to this plateau.  Best lemonade of my life!DSC_0414 more red rock detail.  I will never get enough of watching the sun rise or set, water ripple and red rock cliffs.

While Petra was amazing, our spa day at our resort was just as wonderful!

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I cannot tell you how much fun I had swimming in the spa pools.  One was an indoor dead sea pool (and it stung like a mother because I shaved my legs that morning — ouch!), one was a frigid pool you jump in after relaxing in the sauna, and the other was my favorite.  It was basically a big pool with all sorts of jet action — from a back massaging fountain, to the best foot massager ever, to seats of bubbles.  I truly felt like a princess swimming in its waters.  We spent an entire day getting pampered here, which our aching muscles from the Petra hike totally appreciated.  I may come back again just for the spa day!

And then there was the fact that we could swim in the same waters as Cleopatra…

DSC_0377 the dead sea!

Thing is before you float in this water because you can’t really swim in it — your flubbery self will flip over, and you don’t want to splash around because trust me that shit burns when it gets in your eyes — you have to cover yourself with its black, sulphur-smelling mud.

DSC_0322_2 that’s not tar

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definitely one of the most awkward things I’ve done.  Word of warning:  men will hog the vat of mud and slather that stuff all over them.  Some have no shame and swab it up under their trunks.  I just stood there watching this one man mud up his junk.  No worries because his buddy watched me lather up my chest.  Don’t know if it cured me of anything, but our skin was so incredibly soft afterward.

Getting into the water is awkward too because it’s rocky, and you don’t want to cut yourself because of all the salt.  And then there’s the whole floating thing.  Your body does not want to sink at all.  It’s also weird swimming around knowing nothing will bite you because it’s the ‘dead’ sea.

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but it doesn’t look that way.  Colorful rocks and built-up salt crystals adorn its shores.

We also thoroughly enjoyed our resort, which seemed to chill everything.

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Who doesn’t want chilled nuts and shisha?  The shisha part was weird because when you blew it out the smoke was cold.

The best hummus I’ve ever had, however, was warm.

DSC06734 the roasted pine nuts tasted like bacon.  Oh and that puffy bread next to it was also deliciously warm!

Last, but not least, they celebrated Earth Day while we were there by lighting a bonfire with gas, and filling a bunch of paper bags with candles.  It was hilarious to watch the men try and set this thing up, but we got to sit on the beach, eat free appetizers and watch the lights of Jerusalem across the way.

DSC06790  our little non-eco friendly lanterns.

DSC06713 Mohammed our driver making sure the wind doesn’t blow Michelle off that cliff!  He doesn’t look too worried though, does he?

Of course there’s more to tell, but you’ll just have to ask Michelle or me about the rest of our trip.  I’ve already made this post too long.  Next up (inshallah) will be a run down of the rest of Michelle’s visit.

p.s.  Just read this blog on tourist visa changes in Jordan.  It saddens me the people there are suffering financially because of what’s taking place in neighboring countries.  http://quitealone.com/2015/05/05/jordan-changes-visa-regulations/

Other blogs I’ve posted this week…

I’ve been busy with work and play, but I wrote a couple of blogs elsewhere.  I just finished off my lesson plans for next week and feel like I should write something in here, but what can I say I’m a lazy, tired girl right now.  So, I’m just going to post links to the other blogs — of course they still have to do with my time here, so it’s all good.

Oh, and before I forget for any of my UAE friends, Emirates Palace is running a summer special for residents (yep it includes us!).  We tried booking a room there for my birthday, but the May weekend dates were already nabbed, however we’re going for a weekend in June.   Basically, the cheapest room is close to $300, which is pricey, but it’s the Emirates Palace — hello?  divide the cost with friends and live like royalty for a day.  Anyway, if you’re interested here’s the link to the sale (which goes on until September):  Emirates Palace sale

My blog post in StoryShare can be found here

And my new post for TeachUAE, which was written for new hires waiting to come on over, can be found here

The good news is I’m finally able to keep up with play time, write time and work time — even if it means cutting a corner or two in my personal blog.

Now, all I have to do is get around to editing/selecting those Jordan and Michelle visit pics, so I can share — to our friends back home, I swear I will get to this before you actually see me this summer.

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