Monthly Archives: January 2016
Happy New Year … even though we’re almost into its second month. As is usual, life has been pretty darn good to me. There’s not much for me to complain about. I mean there are things like: why do I have to get up early for work, why do I have to pay bills, why can’t I eat what I want AND lose weight? I’m also bummed there’s no east-coast blizzard for me to play in, then groan about because it’s too cold. I did, however, get a rare fog day in Al Ain, so driving in that to get my Starbucks was harrowing.
I’ve been back to work three weeks, and it’s been busy in a good way. The girls and I are rolling along, prepping as much as we can for their big college-entrance exam in late February. Before you know it it’ll be March, and we’ll be daydreaming about Spring Break. Of course there are other work things I could whine about, but if I typed it out loud I’d just sound spoiled, so I’ll save any whinging for my work pals.
I never did get around to posting much about my last break, so here you go: Joe and I had a fantastic Christmas and New Years. You already know how much I love visiting family in Germany, so I won’t bore you with how great that was (but oh my it was sooo nice to be with them). We spent New Years in Copenhagen and absolutely loved it. To all my English-speaking friends I highly recommend a trip there. It’s expensive, but the people are fun and they speak English better than we do. Plus, the city is easy to navigate, has amazing food (they even do hamburgers better than we do), and is quite a looker. She’s a vixen, a mother, a bookworm, an artist, a bohemian, a nun; you name it she does it all.
We took a train from Hamburg to Copenhagen, which included the train parking on a ferry. Sadly, that train route will end in a few months. Apparently, they have a lot of issues with the diesel trains used for it. Joe and I experienced the troubles first hand. I bought first-class tickets for this trip because I wanted it to be special. Hahaha, well, it was in that the first train we were supposed to be on broke down and we were supposed to get on a bus instead, but we missed the bus. You’d be amazed at how fast I can run with my fat ass and luggage when I’m trying to catch a ride — alas still not fast enough. But, that turned out to be a good thing because we were then placed on the next train an hour and half later — no worries when the Bahnhof has a mini beer hall.
While our little first class corner was comfy, and we were seated next to two nice men, our train’s kitchen area was broken, so no food or drink service, and there were some issues with the bathroom, and no wifi (another first class plus). BUT, we still had a great time — let’s face it we’re not first-class people anyway, who were we trying to fool?
Nothing can describe what it’s like to watch a semi truck park THIS CLOSE to your train on a boat that’s swaying on the sea. The scenery before we got to the harbor was amazing too: hilly farmland, stony villages and lots and lots of windmills. Sorry, the train was moving too fast for me to get good photos.
I cannot compliment where we stayed enough. Our hotel SP34 in the “latin district” of Copenhagen was awesome. You check in at the bar, and our bartender was just what we needed. He could tell we were wore out from the trip and immediately poured us a free drink — and got us checked into our rooms in no time. He suggested the perfect meal for us at the Cock and Cow (who doesn’t want to eat at that name?), which is where I ate the best hamburger of my life (for reals!).
The trip only got better from there. Long story longer New Year’s Eve was insanely amazing. We had soooo, soooo much fun. I don’t know how we’re going to top it at the end of this year. Lord only knows where in the world we’ll bring in 2017, but we’ll worry about that 10 months from now.
As for life back in the UAE it’s still good. I’ve been spending my off time relaxing at home with my neighbors or my netflix (or both), visiting my peeps in Abu Dhabi, and having some fun at our favorite places in Al Ain. A Dubai weekend is coming up soon, and then there’s a Bahrain weekend trip planned in February, so again I don’t have a whole lot to complain about. Oh wait, I do. I really, really, really suck at the whole weight loss thing. Inshallah I manage to shed a few pounds before summer vacation.
Okay finally, some photos for you (and I’m so sorry, but I’ve got to get some other things done so no real captions): Although the 3rd pic on first row is of people climbing scaffolds for the fireworks in Copenhagen; the pic after that is of walking back to hotel. Fireworks went on until like 5 a.m.
So, I’ve discovered that Dante lied. Hell is not a series of circles. It’s never-ending lines and phones that ring for eternity but no one answers. It’s all good now, but a few days ago I really wondered what sins I was paying for. First off my vacation was excellent, and I’ll do a photo post when I have some more time (back to the real world with real-world deadlines right now). But, me oh my, the return trip was a doozy.
We got to the airport 9 a.m. on New Years Day (um after a late New Years eve, which was totally worth every wink of sleep I lost) only to sit and wait a while before knowing which counter I could check my bags in. Then my flight was delayed until 2:30, which wasn’t a problem since Joe’s didn’t leave until 3 p.m., so that gave us more time together. Then it was delayed to 5 p.m. and didn’t leave until after 6. This would cause me to miss my connecting flight in Istanbul, but I was told no problem they’d reroute me in Istanbul when I landed.
What I didn’t know is that it was snowing like crazy in Istanbul, and that the night before several hundred flights were cancelled, hotels booked up and too many cranky folk brought the new year in sleeping on terminal floors.
Stupidly, I got excited when the plane landed and I saw snow. We hadn’t seen a single flake in Scandinavia or Germany, but come to Turkey and kids are throwing snowballs at each other as they leave the plane (for some reason we exited on the tarmac). I’m as happy as they are until I get into the terminal and it’s pandemonium. There is no one directing traffic, no special desk that mentions my airline’s name, just a lot of stressed-out folk not knowing what to do. Luckily, I see three guys talking to someone about their flight. Turns out they’re headed to Abu Dhabi too, so I join their little group as we make the mad dash to this thing called the transfer desk.
It looks like the stock market on a bad day. We enter the mosh pit of people waving their boarding passes to three dudes behind a cubicle wall — in all languages folks were demanding WTF do we do now?
One guy points to a small line, so I go there, show my pass and am told yep I need to get on transfer line. Where is that? Some smart ass jokes, just keep going to the light, you’ll get there. I could not see the end of the line from where I was standing. My new buddies and I break out in a sweat rushing to get to the end before it gets longer. It’s insane, and all I want to do is cry — fully not knowing this was just line one.
Good news is I met interesting people on the line and enjoyed getting to know them. AND, some airline guy came up to our group and said follow me, we’re opening another transfer line. He practically runs, so we run after him tugging our carryons. Other people see what’s happening and join the line until it becomes a mob — the freaking running of the luggage, and the guy up front trying not to get gored by a wayward passport.
We finally get to desk two and have to dodge off people trying to cut in front of us while the airline hands out water and sandwiches — let this be a warning to you this kind gesture means you’re in for a very long night. Two hours later I’m told I won’t be leaving until 9 the next night, but all I have to do is go through passport control, take a right to hotel desk and rest until it’s time to fly. My baggage would automatically be put on that flight. Again, like an idiot I’m a little giddy. I get to spend the day in Istanbul and they’re paying for it. It’s around midnight by now.
Of course the passport line is packed with people, and it’s long, but I’m getting a free room; I can do this. My buddies-in-hell and I plan a possible tour for the next day. We complain about the fact that we’ll only get a few hours of sleep before going to work now, but we’re cool with it.
Passport dude belts out my name: Bettina! Bettina you need to get a visa. I tell him no I’m just staying for the night; I don’t (again I’m an idiot — I should know by now I’d need a visa!). He says no, go back and points to where I need to go, which is when I notice a boat load of other people running toward the Visa guy. So, off we go again. $30 and another line later I have my visa stamp, so now it’s rush back to passport control to wait again. FINALLY, we’re through passport control (my new friends and I have learned to stick together so we can sweat together when we run — oh and we picked up another friend on the visa line).
Again there are loads of people running around in circles, trying to find the ‘hotel desk.’ We don’t find the desk, but we see an even longer line of people, which we already know is meant for us. Some said screw it and found a corner to cry and sleep in, but our flight wasn’t until the next night so we stuck it out for HOURS. When you get to the end of the line you’re rewarded with more sandwiches and juice and a promise that someone will call out your name and take you to the hotel, which happens quite quickly (relatively speaking).
Again, I’m happy. Finally, I can shower and sleep. I’m even happier when I see our lovely hotel, but I shit you not it took another two hours before I got checked in. People were mouth-open, heads-over-the-back-of-their-chairs passed out in a 5-star lobby that wasn’t built for this. I entered my room at 5 a.m. I landed at 10 p.m.
But being the optimist I am, I was ecstatic to have a nice clean room with a comfy bed and a bathtub. I skipped out on any tours and spent the day sleeping, eating the free food provided, reading and checking out the hotel lounge. I sipped a bevy while watching more snow fall.
Our 6 p.m. shuttle got us to the airport on time. Life was good until our flight was delayed until 11 p.m. BUT, the good news is it did take off; bad news is it was hot as hell. The girl next to me stripped down to her tank top and was still sweating. I melted in my boots and clothes I left Denmark in. Don’t ever want to smell those clothes again.
Long story longer we finally land Sunday, 5 a.m. Abu Dhabi time, whiz through passport control, on to baggage where we wait and wait and wait until the carousel stops moving. By now we know the deal: run to lost-baggage counter where we wait in line again!
I’m given two numbers to call — we’re available 24 hours! I call just about every hour (including the middle of the night); no one ever answers the phone. Today, I get through to someone at my airline and they inform me that my baggage will make it to my home before 2 p.m. “They didn’t call you?” Of course not, but when ‘they’ did (a few hours after I spoke to airline guy) it was a man who couldn’t speak English. He was in Al Ain ready to drop my bag off at Muwaji village. I live in the Muwaji area not village, which is not too far away, but the problem is the guy can’t understand me, so he gets another guy who can to call me, but he doesn’t understand very well either. I’m also not home, so I have to call our caretaker, who also doesn’t speak much English but way more than the driver and his friend. Several calls back and forth and my bag finally makes it home. It was happily guarding my front door when I got home from work.
I apologize for this too-long post, but after surviving all those long lines I needed to sentence out my therapy. And while I’m grateful for the free room and food, I don’t ever want to fly that airline again — but let’s be honest, I probably will. I’m a sucker for a good travel deal — just please remind me to not do it during winter break where snow can pop up anywhere and make a mess of things. That said it did all work out in the end, so maybe that’s my theme for 2016 — but please no more lines!