Monthly Archives: October 2016
Okay first I’m going to brag about my time doing the cosmopolitan thing and playing with the pretty people in Dubai. I had a blast this weekend. Thursday night I happy-hour chilled with friends on a lovely hotel terrace then bee bopped on a rooftop club full of hipsters —- finding my shisha, cocktail nirvana amongst the young and city lights.
The next day we gussied ourselves up (and looked mighty damn fine if I do say so myself) for the Toy Brunch at Westin. The Toy Brunch is different than most brunches. It’s set in a swanky black and silver night club decked out with lego blocks, trucks and other toys. A duck taco stand is in one corner, a bar in the other and a moveable platform somewhere in the middle. Waiters bring you platters of Asian food —- beginning with an assortment of dim sum and sushi and ending with miniature pastries. The food and perpetually flowing champagne is nice, but the acts are what give it its extra umph. One minute you’re inhaling a skewer of meat, the next you’re watching a ballerina in a helmet pirouette on that platform, followed by a contortionist, minions, mimes, pokemon and a whole assortment of toy-themed fun, including a little-man magician. It’s surreal.
Some of Haneefa’s pics (my phone sucks)
The young in slinky, sexy outfits abound, and I was feeling just like one of them until a 22-year old said to me, “I wanna be just like you when I’m your age.”
My age? What in the hell? Did she not realise in my head I am still 19, and hello? I thought I looked pretty darn cool in my macrame sweater (hahaha typing this I realize hmm maybe not the best choice) and black dress.
But check it out, here I am riding a jackass (and I beat off a few young ones telling them I’ve had plenty more years experience).
It’s all good because age aside, my table —- of 30, 40 and 50 somethings —- was one of the first to be moved to the upstairs portion of the club (when the food service part was over), where we got our own couch and perfect view of ‘toy’ dancers, and I had a fabulous time showing the young how it’s done ‘when my age.” One day in their too-near future they will live to regret those words.
I even woke up the next morning feeling perfectly fine, but as the day wore on indigestion kicked in, and then an old back injury started acting up. Long story short I popped some tylenol PM and alka seltzer before going to bed in hopes of a good night’s sleep. Then boom! the scariest headache of my life kicked in. I, honest to god, thought I was having a stroke. I called my neighbour Haneefa (and also the youngest playmate I had this weekend) who took me to the ER.
Five hours later, an EKG, Cat Scan, IV drip of something and blood work, and I learned that there was nothing wrong with me — well except for the fact that I’m 51 and my body is rebelling against this thing called ‘the change.’ I tried to rationalise what had happened —- too much good food and prosecco? bad reaction from tylenol pm and effervescent antacid? But, no the obvious answer is on the Internet. Apparently, women my age can experience this kind of thing when there’s a drastic change in estrogen. Who knew? And, there it is: I’m facing my age all over again. If only this thing that’s happening would hurry up and delete my cycle I’d be much happier about it.
That said it is what it is, and I’m not going to dwell on it now that I know what it is. The next time my brain explodes I’ll just live with it. Am I embarrassed that my poor friend had to sit with me at a hospital for too many hours on a work night for something that was just hormonal? A little, but two other things happened to put it all in perspective.
- My friend stayed with me even though I told her several times to go. I could take a taxi home. She said no. We don’t have family here, and no one wants to stay alone in the hospital. Scary is scary regardless of the outcome, and thank God I don’t have some sort of brain-eating worm embedded in my skull (another thing I thought might be a reason). I am so incredibly blessed to have the friends I do (and know that any one of them would have done this), and I am glad she stayed with me. I was scared, and having her there made a difference. Our friendships here are what guide us through the good, the bad and the ugly.
- The reason we were in hospital for so long was because there was a bad car wreck. A man died just a few feet away from my little corner. A woman who knew him wailed loudly. Her cries tugged at my soul. I so badly wanted to hug her and tell her it would be okay, but right then that was a complete lie. For her at that moment nothing was okay. She violently lost someone she obviously loved. My friend and I would get to go home, and I’d get to joke about my hormonal headache.
Yes this aging thing is a bitch, but I get to do it. And I thank the powers that be for every second that is given to me —- and rock my damned crocheted sweater and heals while doing it.
putting this here just so in 20 years I could look at it and say, “damn I looked good when I was ‘young.'” Plus it looks a little cosmoish!
Image taken from Wikitravel.com
The weekend is already on its last day. Man, they go by too quickly, even when I’m spending most of it chilling on the couch — either with friends or my laptop.
There’s a whole lot of fun we do on our off time, but the one thing most expat teachers (at least in the UAE) have in common is we spend a lot of time planning our next trips. Check out our internet history and you’ll see an ungodly amount of flight-deal searches. It’s almost pornographic how much we voyeur into potential voyages.
As soon as I know I have days off coming up, I’m on it (hahaha sometimes a year in advance). Since most of my trips are long weekend trips, I usually start off planning by scanning for a deal — groupon (yes they have great travel deals, although I have yet to buy one), Cobone (a local version of Groupon), Kayak, Skyscanner, Googleflights (although I’ve only used this for ideas), etc. Then I chat with friends who’ve been there, check for visa requirements and costs, book it, and go. Easy, peasy.
The longer vacations take a bit more work. Currently, I’m in the midst of booking the bits and bobs of Joe’s and my future trip to Iceland (in 10 more weeks, but whose counting). Iceland has been a bit more of a challenge for me because of its cost and unpredictable weather (hello Arctic winds!). There’s so much we want to see, but within our timeframe (12 days) and limited wallet, we’ve got to narrow it down. So, what I do in a case like this is I google the hell out of other people’s blogs, and I cross check their experiences with sites like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet, and then I write the list of “holy shit we gotta do this!” and, then, logical me takes over and says, “bitch, let’s be real, are you really gonna be able to do all this?”
This time around other people’s blogs have played an integral role, and one of the things that has helped me most is their advice on how to plan, which of course made me realize that hey maybe I should share some of how I do this as well. Because I do this so much it feels like I’m writing the obvious, but if it’s helpful to anyone — yee haw! If not, hang in there folk, I’m sure I’ll have something new to write about next week (or I could tell you how we go about voting from overseas — in a nutshell we pay to mail our vote or drive to drop it off at the embassy — but this year’s election hurts too much to talk about, so probably not).
- Once I’ve (in my case it’s usually we) settled on a location (and this is after we checked out visa requirements, potential costs, etc.), I scan all the flight sites for the best flight deal. Experience has taught me best is not always the cheapest (and if you can get a good deal nab that higher-end airline flight — woo hoo I nabbed an Etihad one for my return flight). Kayak tends to be the one that lands me the best flight deals, but beware. Kayak sometimes takes you to other travel sites, which are not all created equally. Google those sites before you book and check their fees (some charge you extra for everything, including booking with a credit card!). I’ve had issues with some, and great experiences with others.
- Google travel blogs, if you’re old school and like something bigger than a phone in your hands buy guide books (although, in my case, I just bought the book to send to Joe), check out travel sites and WikiTravel, create your dream list. Then wake up the logical bitch and map out what you can afford (and what your body can handle). For the Iceland trip our must-dos: an ice cave hike (we shall see how I walk with crampons on), Glacier Lagoon area, Golden Circle, some of their famous waterfalls, Vik and black sand beach area, Christmas in a cabin in a remote area (InshAllah which includes a successful Northern Lights hunt), New Years Eve in the heart of Reykjavik, soaking in an outdoor thermal bath (Blue Lagoon is on the list for our last day, but we’re hoping to do another one somewhere else), and since we are a couple that spends too many months apart, one night in one of Iceland’s luxury hotels (we chose Ion Luxury Adventure; it was available and seemed more our style) and whatever else happens along the way.
- Book the tours, extra things you want to do. At first there were all sorts of tours I wanted to sign us up for, but logical bitch put me in my place. We decided renting a car and doing a lot of this on our own was our best bet. That said we weren’t going to go to Iceland in winter and NOT attempt an ice cave hike, so I googled the hell out of that and booked the one that we think works best for us. Mama is getting her fat ass on (and in) a glacier — much more doable than getting it in a dry suit and scuba diving between tectonic plates (seriously you can do this in the winter! alas it is no longer on my list).
- Map out journey and begin the lodging, rental car search. We’re exploring the south east coast, Reykjavik area, and a little bit of the west. We would love to do more of the west and northern parts, but it’s winter and we can only afford so much. Joe and I are rustic souls (that said I can also be a diva), so we’re good with lower-end accommodations (although lower-end price isn’t really a thing here). If it were summer time, we’d probably rent a camper, but it’s not, and we haven’t seen each other in quite a few months, so we went with a mix of apartments, cottages and hotel rooms that included our own bathrooms. It would’ve been cheaper had we included hostels or guest houses with shared bathrooms. So, for us we’ll have some nights out for dinner and some where we’re nuking leftovers, but we’re good with it — it’s what works for us. We’re also using a week to do what most people would probably do in about two or three days because we know we like to sit, stare and sigh at nature. But, we’ll be busy checking things out during those few hours when the sun is awake!
- Research nuances of where you’re going. For me the best part of travel is the stuff you don’t plan, unless it’s effing up by ignorantly violating a cultural norm. Then it’s just awkward or painful. Well, it’s sometimes awkward doing the local stuff as well, but that’s part of the deal. For example: I now know that we’ll get naked and shower with strangers before going into a thermal bath, and there’s something about not wearing your shoes in the locker room (will just watch and do what everyone else does). I also need to get the pin number for my credit card since we might need it to gas up, but I also read there’s these prepaid gas cards (we’ll figure it out, but I’ll have the pin in case). Joe is reading up on driving their winter roads since we both know it’s best I don’t drive narrow, icy roads (not that I couldn’t do it — I’d just rather take pics and not pollute the vehicle with loud profanity). Basically, get a taste of what you’re in for, so you can enjoy it versus being a bad tourist stereotype. We’ll learn how to say please and thank you in their language, but something tells me they’d rather we not mangle their words so badly (Amen! their English is probably better than ours).
- And last, but not least, research the basic stuff: what to wear, food and bevie costs (um, we’ll be doing a lot of pre-gaming before going out), etc.
And that’s pretty much how I spend my free time when I’m not whooping it up with friends, binge watching t.v. shows or reading a book on my chaise lounge. Okay and every once in a while my free time is also spent grading, but shhh we’re not talking work right now. Come on December, get here already!
Image taken from Wikipedia — oh Iceland how I’m dreaming of you (and, of course, my man).
My favorite one of Joe and me, which is a hard pick because there are some great ones.
Four months later, and I’m finally able to take a look through all of the wedding pics Anna took for us. It’s gonna take me a bit to put it all together in a photo album, and I’m trying to send everyone my fave of their pics, but it’s easier if I blast a bunch in here and if any of my friends/family would like one on the blog, just let me know and I’ll get it to you. There are also many great ones not posted here because, well, I just can’t upload them all.
First off credit for all of these photos goes to Anna Purdy, who is based in Virginia. If you’re interested in her work, check out her website here.
Secondly, if you’re looking to read a post about one of my great adventures, this one’s a big one for me and my family, but will probably bore those of you who don’t know us. Hopefully, my next post will be of more interest to you.
Thirdly, I totally suck at posing for pics. I am not a model wanna be in any way, shape or form. Sooo kudos to Anna for getting so many lovely shots because I’m a hard one to photograph well.
Take for example this lovely pic, which through no fault of the photographer looks like I’m in phase one of zombie transformation. How in the hell do you even get your eye to do that?
BUT, despite my whackadoodle facial expressions I got a nice assortment of 50+ year old glamour shots — ewww even have some cleavage/thigh shots (but those are Joe’s pics to keep).
See not too shabby. Thanks to Shannan for doing my hair (not finished yet in this pic) and Michelle for doing my makeup.
My absolute favourites, though, are not of me in my shiny white robe. They are the family and friend shots, and the ones of Joe and me. I love all of us and what we have together, so I will never get tired of looking at our group shots!
Oh how I love my zany friends
And the women in my family/wedding party
And the men…
Sadly, Brian, Joe’s friend since grade school, isn’t in any of these photos, but we’ll have shots of him in the wedding album!
aw the kids and us. I’m so thankful for all the fun and love we have together!
And, of course, some of Joe and me
And the wedding party, which doesn’t include everyone who played a role in making our wedding weekend so fabulous…
Now all I have to do is wait two and a half months before I see my man again, and way too many months before I see the kids, but we’re always connected, and we’ll make the best of our time when we’re together.
While I just finished off another fantastic weekend in Dubai with good friends, this isn’t another “look at how lucky I am” post (well in a roundabout way maybe it is). I do feel lucky, but the reality is I didn’t just luck into the path I’m currently on. I worked toward it, and I fumbled, cried, bled through many mistakes and hurdles before getting here (and I’ll fumble through quite a few more before my time is done).
I read one of those internet articles that tells you what you shouldn’t be doing on social media if you want to keep your friends from defriending you — FYI writing such articles is probably one of them. Anyway, it mentioned how you shouldn’t brag about all your travels and how lucky you are, and I was like oh shit that’s pretty much all I post about. And then I remembered that, wait a minute, my Facebook page and my blog (my only social media outlets) are all about me being me with my peeps around the world (and anyone else who wants to crash the party for a bit). No one has to read a word I write, but I’m glad every now and then some people do. Maybe we’re connecting on a good level?
Then I got to thinking about what I think about my life now, and I realized that there are a few things I’ve always done that helped me to get to where I am now. I wish 51-year old me could tell much-younger me that I should stop wishing so damned much because I’ve totally got this, but you can’t tell younger you jack shit because A. you’re not a time traveler, and B. young you won’t listen anyway. But, for what it’s worth here’s what I’d tell me:
Quit taking what others say you should do as gospel, but do listen to what they have to say. Do learn from them, but know you’ve got some pretty damned nifty insights that will help you navigate your way through life.
- You know you’re not great. You’re aware that you’re as tragically flawed and effed up as the next poor soul. You know that when you do succeed at something it’s never because you did it alone. There’s layers to every success and failure … every single time. And because you’re so damned flawed you do sometimes judge, gossip and bitch about others, but then you remind yourself to shut the heck up because hey they’re human — although you do this back and forth thing a lot (might want to work on reducing the judgy moments)
- You’re incredibly grateful — even during the lowest moments in your life you will find something to be grateful for. Never, ever lose that. [And thank you to the people in my life who’ve cultivated this wonderful gift!]
- You change paths when you need to — even if it’s a long, hard road you really don’t want to take. [Younger me is giving the “are you crazy” look — no flipping way would I have ever thought I’d do half the hard work I’ve done to get from point A to B, and then change it all up again because I realized I needed a different alphabet, several times! and god help me, I’ll do it again].
- You don’t grow old — well your body is a bitch because she will age, despite your efforts. But your childlike wonder keeps you amazed and constantly wanting to know more. Please don’t squash that (although there are times when you’re exhausted and child like wonder is put into time out).
- You don’t seep in your sorrow too long. You grieve, you rage, you do all the craziness everyone else does when the proverbial shit hits the fan, but you’re usually pretty quick about taking a deep breath and accepting it for what it is and then finding a way past the bad parts.
- You smile wide and laugh loud. Sure you look and sound like a fool a lot, but damn it feels good. And not only is it good for your soul, I’m pretty sure it’s good for others too (unless they’re trying to sleep).
- Speaking of which you hang on to the people who also feed your soul, and you love them even when you kinda, sorta wanna slap them. You let go of those who solely feed off of you, even if you once loved them with everything you had.
- You’ve got a list just as long, if not longer , as this as to what you’re not good at, or what you don’t do well for yourself, but the good news is you pay attention to that too. You don’t always fix your flaws, but you try, and you admit (eventually) when you haven’t quite got it right.
And why I felt the need to share all of this in my blog is beyond me … oh wait that’s right I wanted to point out that the very good things going on in my life right now aren’t pure luck. I worked very hard to get to this point, and I’m okay with admitting I’m proud of myself for that.
Hard work and doing all of the above does not guarantee a life of happy, happy, joy, joy, but it sure as hell has helped me find my many different versions of success. And, I guess that’s what this rambling post is all about: discovering and embracing the bits about you that help you succeed in what matters (even when your definition of success doesn’t gel with what you once thought it was supposed to be). Mine is this crazy overseas life, my loved ones, and the stuff that happens in between.
And, hopefully, my posts about all of my joys and discoveries, are somehow connecting with you and your bits of goodness — and not coming off as me just bragging.
Okay time for me to give into my brutal side and do something else I’ve been enjoying lately: watch another Vikings episode. Holy moly, I’m so glad I wasn’t alive back then because then you’d be hearing all about the fools I eviscerated, and how blessed and lucky I was to have had the chance. This show might just turn me into a vegetarian — too much blood and guts (and, yet, I still watch).