Category Archives: Al Ain Third trimester

It’s okay. I brushed my teeth with gin

lion girls

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.

DSC05187

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.

DSC05231

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..

DSC04817

Mt Kilmanjaro

DSC05139DSC04432DSC04404DSC_0373DSC_0308

DSC_0346

Even seaweed looks good

DSC05267

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!

Happy New Year!

dsc03943dsc03864

As is always the case, all good things must come to an end (although most would argue 2016 needed to hurry up and end).  I’m sipping mint tea made from fresh mint leaves and wiping off sausage roll crumbs from my bosom while on my very long layover in Amsterdam.  My original plan when I booked this flight was to stroll around the city, eat a meal at a cafe and find my way back to the airport.  But, I’m beat.  The idea of bundling up and finding my way around another city was just too much for me, so instead I’ve tooled around the airport, which is actually a lovely place to lose oneself in, bought some cheese, chatted with friends, and now I’m taking the time to write all about my last day of 2016, which topped 2016’s birthday — another fun filled, firework-laden night!

Reykjavik is an awesome place to say goodbye and hello!  Icelanders stock up on fireworks and go all out.  Just like in Copenhagen the fireworks show is put on by the inhabitants not the government, and believe you me these viking decedents love their fire.  Holy hell it was amazing.  Joe noticed that the police helped folks with the larger boomers, keeping people at a relatively safe place away from take off — although I got plenty of ash in my eye.  We have no idea where we’ll be this time next year, but it’s going to be hard to top this new year’s.

First off at around 8:30 p.m. bonfires are lit all over the country.  We went to the big one on Ægisíða, near where we were staying (about a 30 minute walk).  The bonfire goes back to pagan days, and it’s either a way to burn off last year’s stuff or light the way for elves and the new, or just a chance to burn up shit while the kids play with sparklers.  Either way it worked for us!  Families and tourists all gather around and bond with the coming and passing of another year.  Reminded me (a little, our fires weren’t this massive) of the cul de sac bonfires we used to have near my place every New Year’s Eve.

Best part is the fire wasn’t the only thing putting on a show.  Right behind us the Northern Lights danced away, letting us know the skies too were whooping up the death and birth of time.  I cannot believe we spent a week in remote areas looking for the northern lights and boom they show up in a city while fireworks and bonfires pollute the sky with light and smoke.  That’s Iceland for you — sure read the guide books (and by all means do pay attention to the warnings!  they’re legit!), but Iceland is gonna do what she wants to do when and where she wants to do it.  She is not a land who plays by tourist rules.

thumb_dsc03710_1024thumb_dsc03705_1024

The lights arched over our fire, way out to sea.  They flared and twirled, but since I’m the laziest photographer in the world I did not have my tripod and DSLR on me (hey that shit is heavy).  So, while I’m pleased to have captured the green, you don’t see the bits of purple and the seductive dance they weaved.  The video on my camera just couldn’t capture it.  But, I worked up a sweat keeping my arm high and still while clicking stills away.

Obviously Joe and I had a blast.  It was magical, and we didn’t want to pull ourselves away, but eventually the lights dissipated and we found our way back to our part of town to prep up for the great big fireworks display (although they had been going off all day).

So we may have hit a pub or two… and an ice skating rink.

Another big tradition amongst natives is to gather around a t.v. and watch an annual comedy show that is loaded with comedic skits.  The entire city calms down to almost a standstill while close friends and family members feast, laugh and watch the big show.

Looks like the only people on the streets during show are tourists, folks coming back out after the show is over.  As for those fireworks they were still blasting away midnight last night, and are probably still booming away today.

Joe and I ate dinner at our apartment and watched some of the show.  We were happy to be able to figure some of it out (thanks to some English thrown in and good ole fashioned fart jokes — apparently everyone understands those!).  And then we were out in the thick of it kissing 2016 good bye.

New Years Day we headed over to Keflavik where we walked around the harbor and into a giant’s cave.

But mostly New Years Day was bittersweet for us because within a few hours we’d both be off to our corners of the world, but OUR countdown begins today.  Seven more months, and we’re back to being together full time — lol for better or worse.

Some daytime Reykjavik pics for you

And, my flight is getting ready to board.  Yay me I land early tomorrow and go straight to work from the airport.  I’m so not looking forward to how exhausted and crappy looking I’ll be.  But, come on 2017.  Let’s see what you’ve got in store for us!

Getting Lost in old Talinn

My day trip to Estonia was the absolute best way for a girl to spend the day alone, especially  one like me who imagines life and magic into everything.  Not hard to do when you’re walking cobblestone streets lined with window displays of faeries and gnomes, vikings and Santas —- oh and so much more.  Best part was it’s off tourist season, so many times I had entire streets to myself, and I half expected some withered old soul to pop out of an arched doorway to invite me in for some schnapps and chess.

thumb_dsc02325_1024

And then there was this local’s creative window display — perhaps warning us to quit looking in his damned window, or else!

I spent hours walking in the fog and rain, and didn’t care about the cold and wet one bit.  Every turn took me somewhere new in the very old.  I was a child and time traveler and, lol, remaker of history because my version of the stories that went with what I saw are so different from the real ones, but hey it was my day to get lost, so I’m sticking with my versions — and who knows maybe one day they’ll pop up into my fiction writing (if I ever get back to that — with so much good real in my life, fiction is kind of chilling on a lounger with some tea right now, and that’s way okay!).

thumb_dsc02309_1024

One alley way led up a hill, which led to an overlook of all that red!  Haha and then I met this fella

thumb_dsc02315_1024

who decided this was a very good place to shit..

My favourite discovery, however was an awesome cup of chai because of the work I had to do to get to it.  I had to climb dark, narrow steps up a stone wall with a chain railing to finally get to a cafe, where I relaxed in an old tower that smelled of centuries old smoke.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Climbing back down was a bit scary, but I was grateful I didn’t imbibe in any of the boozey choices.  Besides, I had plenty more to see.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

English isn’t as widely spoken here as in many of the other places I visit, but that was half the fun — learning something that sounded a little bit Russian, a little bit Finnish and Germanic?  There are two versions of thank you:  one sort of sounds like Talin, but not really (sorry guys I suck at Estonian).  I also discovered that bartering — for me anyway — doesn’t really exist here, but a big ole guy (me thinks he might be part gnome) gave me two free Matryoshka magnets.  “Gift for you,” he said, and laughed and said something I didn’t understand, but I’m sure it was something like “my American goddess.  You are most welcome here!”  Or it could’ve just been a consolation gift for my failed attempt at saving euros.

Speaking of which there is a seedy, or maybe just thrifty, side to taking a day trip here.  It’s much cheaper than Finland, so guess what folk stock up on when they make the two hour trip over?  Booze baby.  Some, who are are more than a little rough around the edges, imbibe more than I ever could while ‘shopping’ here.  One obvious alcoholic with a heavy slavic accent sat in the ferry terminal cussing out Russians in English.  I won’t type all that he said here, but according to him their mothers are quite gifted with um, shall we say the ancient art.  I’ve not heard that many choice English words in a very long time.  Perhaps he thought no one would understand, but going by the snickers and facial expressions (my mouth was dropped wide WTF? open) he was.

Also at the terminal was my version of an old babushka with a baby carriage loaded with cases of booze and an odd looking lady with a pebbles pony tail on a scooter, and yep she was tinkling with the bottles.  I bought one ornamental bottle of Russian vodka and a bottle of Vana Talinn, a local liquor Joe and I will warm ourselves with.  So I was looking pretty anorexic compared to the folks (most of whom, by the way, looked very normal) who loaded up suitcases of booze and christmas food.

dsc02350

Some folk had dollies full of beer, booze and food.  But, I can’t blame them.  Prices in Finland and Iceland (can’t comment on Sweeden or Norway since haven’t been there — yet) are truly high.

But the ferry part of it is very, very cool!

The other great bit about this trip is the two-hour ferry ride (if you use Talink).  Omg for around $50 I had round trip tickets and a buffet breakfast.  First off the ship is huge!  My buffet breakfast was lovely with great coffee.  I pretty much sat in the dining room the whole morning trip to Talin — free wifi didn’t hurt.  On the way back I was lucky to be one of the first ones at the gate.  What surprised me was when the gates opened how fast people were practically running to get back on the ship.  I kept up with the crowd, almost running over the babushka and her boozer, but worried I wouldn’t make what felt like the mile-long run (these people are not only gorgeous; they’re in shape!).  I followed them right on up the stairs to the top floor where there’s an amazing lounge — cruise ship worthy!  I swear I almost shed tears of joy.  I’m pretty sure Hallelujah was playing.

Don’t let those empty seats fool you; this place filled up quickly.  I kept telling the lady next to me how amazing this was.  Those windows were part of the boat’s windshield — hello?!  But she just nodded and smiled at me and pretty much thought I was one of the seedy visitors (because I was panting like an over-heated dog and I also had a glass of Vana Talinn and a mini bottle of wine).  But whatevs  I was so flipping happy!  Best way ever to rest up after a day’s exploration.  And, yeah, I also spent my lounge time WhatsApping  pics of bevies and exclamations of “is this heaven?”  This part of the world knows how to ferry right!

And that’s probably more than you want to know — um unless you actually wanted historical data, then whoops my bad — about my little adventure.  I highly recommend it if you’re ever in this part of the world.

Time for our big train trip…

escalator In just a few hours we’ll find our way to the main train station, so that we can find our way to Germany.  Wish us luck that we end up on the right train, and not headed toward Siberia. Although, public transportation here has been great.  The trams and subways are easy to find, although some of the escalators are quite steep.  People lean forward or backward to prevent dizziness.  It’s comical (to me anyway). We took it easy yesterday just strolling the alleyways, stopping at shops, and eating and drinking.  A highlight was escaping the rain by sipping Aberol spritzers and cider under a canopy in an Italian cafe while others crowded under ancient archways or their umbrellas. Later on in Old Town Square we were treated to a Jazz fest.  Since I have to pack up and get ready for our next journey I don’t have a whole lot of time to write.  So, here are a few pics to do the telling for me.

DSC07689 DSC07687 DSC07680 DSC07676DSC07700 DSC07715   DSC07744 DSC07761 DSC07734As you can see Prague is magical at night.

DSC07669

DSC07672

it’s enchanting during the day as well.

DSC07665 a meal at a famous tavern.  Of course I don’t remember the name.  All I know is men came around dropping off frothy mugs of beer (made at the tavern and the only brand they serve), shots of honey something or other (“it’s healthy!”) and heavy plates of Czech food.  Shannan tried the beef and cream, which comes with berries and a dollop of whipped cream.  It’s an odd dish.  We were also entertained by a gnomish accordion player who was a sweetheart. And that, my friends, is it for now.  Tomorrow the rest of our group arrives … heaven help Munich!

Pretty in Praha!

Oh where to begin!  We’ve been busy loving Prague.  So far we’ve done an e-bike (sooooo love these ingenious inventions, may have to buy one) tour, a segway tour, a sex museum tour. a rickshaw ride back to our hotel room, our own version of a pub crawl, etc. etc.   Basically, we’ve burned some miles discovering this amazing city where beer is allegedly cheaper than water — or so we’ve been told.

We’ve also inhaled some calories with ghoulish, ham (oh heavenly ham), hot dogs, and other yummy dishes (an almost orgasmic pork dish with roquefort sauce amongst one of them) to name just a few.

Oh, and while working our way toward Charles Bridge we did shots and danced (all within a 20 minute time frame) with random strangers at our first Ice Pub.  Trust me 20 minutes is all I could handle, and it’s the quickest club experience ever.

We’re in our hotel room now resting for a bit, but not like we rested yesterday.  You see we didn’t get back to our room until 10 p.m. and the plan was to take a nap so we could go back to the streets to experience weekend nightlife (establishments don’t close until 4 a.m.).  Um, I woke up from the nap 7:30 this morning.  That’s okay because tonight is another night. Just maybe we’ll get to see it tonight.

thumb_DSC07452_1024 thumb_DSC07446_1024 thumb_DSC_0358_1024 thumb_DSC_0354_1024

Looks cold, right?  Yes this is a tourist trap, but we loved it, so that’s all that matters.  Where else do you drink from actual ice cubes?

thumb_DSC07483_1024 thumb_DSC07478_1024 thumb_DSC_0449_1024And I’m happy to say we’re not the only ones making asses out of ourselves.  It’s actually an art form here.  Although a note on the baby sculptures, they’re pretty awesome.  They are also placed crawling up “the ugliest tower,” (ours were in a park near the river) which is the old t.v. tower for communist broadcasts.  The babies have barcodes for faces symbolizing that thanks to media we are all products of some sorts.  Or faceless babies, but I think I prefer products, but then again neither is good is it?

DSC07648More artwork for you to ponder.  So these two guys pissing onto a map of Czech Republic symbolize politicians.  Of course there’s more to it than that, but check out that child checking out the moving penises (they’re like turtles going in an out — a lil shy at times) while Shannan and I solve world problems, or, more likely, chat about where we’ll eat our next hot dog.

DSC_0385 which, of course, we did (but to be honest that was before the Segway tour).

DSC07602 sometimes the angels pee too…

thumb_DSC_0385_1024 There’s also lots of other lovely art.  SO MUCH ART.  I love this place.  One would never get bored of looking here.

thumb_DSC_0470_1024 thumb_DSC_0413_1024 thumb_DSC_0438_1024 thumb_DSC_0342_1024 thumb_DSC07499_1024 See what I mean.  The cross that looks like a lizard is on the sidewalk next to the National Museum in Wenceslas Square.  It is a memorial to Jan Palach.  Basically this young man (a student) burned himself in 1968 as a protest to the demoralization of the Czech people during the Soviet invasion.  Again, there is more to the story, and the memorial is meant to be subtle. I like that it shows how sacrifice melds with the earth.  I am always reminded that as a species we can create the most beautiful, amazing things while also tearing at each other’s souls.  We are such an odd species.

DSC07656 Of course the Beatles captured this dichotomy well, and there’s a John Lennon wall where people can freely paint their graffiti messages.  It’s a constantly changing wall, and we were warned to not lean against it because the paint might still be wet.  John Lennon never got a chance to visit or sing here since it was under Communist rule when he was alive, and his music was banned from the public — which, of course, didn’t stop the people from finding a way to hear.  Legend, however, has it you just might find Beatle signatures if you look.

thumb_DSC_0440_1024 DSC07654 DSC07653 Love is also celebrated here with their own lock wall where men can lock their hearts after a proposal.  Strolling through the parks and near the riverbeds you see all sorts of couples enjoying each other’s company.  It’s quite the city to be in love in.

DSC07545 Um, it also has a collection of carnal artifacts.  I’ll spare you the not-for-kids photos that show off centuries of odd adult toys and practices.  This one is an ancient Greek prostitute’s shoe.  Apparently, the words at the bottom of her shoe imprinted follow me in the sand.  Or something like that.  We also saw a silent film that we so wish we hadn’t.  Trust me when I type photoshop is a good thing. Although it was funny doing so with a group of strangers from around the world  — awkward sex translates every where.

thumb_DSC_0343_1024But today’s adults have lots of G-rated fun in public.  Nothing more entertaining than watching folk try to walk on water.

DSC07644 DSC07638 DSC07635 DSC07622 DSC07608 Sorry folks I’m getting lazy on you now.  Here’s some of our tour shots.  I prefer e-bikes to segways.  I feel more in control on the bike (although someone get my nether regions an icepack after cycling on all that cobblestone), and for some reason my feet really hurt on the segway.  I’m sure it was because my toes were clenching.  They look so innocent, but when you’re going through traffic and crowds all you can think of is holy shit I’m gonna kill someone (or myself) with this thing, but luckily we didn’t!  BUT, I’m glad we did both.

DSC07646 DSC07659

and, well, don’t we look cute!

DSC07576 DSC07574 DSC07570 We also sampled some Absinthe — and won’t be doing it again.

And, that’s all that I have for you for now.  I better hurry and fit in my nap, so we can get out there and do some more.

Auf Wiedersehen…

Tomorrow is my last day of work, and then we’re off to Dubai for a night.  Friday afternoon I’ll be walking the streets of Prague. A few days later we’ll be on a train headed for Munich.  Cannot believe this time is finally here. Meanwhile, some of the new hires are getting their tickets to arrive early August.  I got giddy all over again seeing their frenzy of “I got my ticket” posts.  Oh what a wonderful opportunity this is, and I’m so grateful I’ve had this chance.

I’ll try to post pics and blog updates while on vacation, but who knows when I’ll have time and wifi access.  We shall see.  If not, I’ll definitely write more while in Phoenix.  To my Arizona peeps, I’ll be in town beginning July 31 (well July 30, but I’ll need that day to hug and kiss my family to death).  Joe and I will be taking a vacation as well, but I do hope to get to see you guys before I head back to Al Ain on August 20.

Just popping in here to let everyone know whoop!  whoop!  I’ve finished off my first year, and it was fabulous.  Time for having a whole lot of time for a whole lot of fun.

Hope to see some of you soon!

It’s the final countdown…

well, until we go on summer break that is.  ONE MORE WEEK OF WORK.  Woo hoo!  Not that work has been hard these past few weeks, but still we are all ready to end this thing and begin our summer travels. Thursday night my neighbors and I threw an Independence Day hallway party.  Basically, we cleared out our kitchens, made up whatever stuff we could with it, pulled our tables into the hallway, and celebrated with our friends.  So, in one shot we took care of Canada Day, 4th of July, and End of School Year.  A good time was had by all.

DSC07372DSC07380 DSC07376DSC07382some party pics … love our munchie spread in the hallway.  The hallway got a little crowded, but that’s okay because we had different things going on in each of our apartments.  I was too busy socializing to take pics of all the fun going on in our living rooms (um, this is pretty much all I took— must remember to capture more next time around!), and I’m so pleased that all of our circles of friends really seemed to enjoy each other.  A big thank you to everyone who came and gave me another night to remember. I love the people I meet here.

I think my last end-of-year celebration (there have been quite a few of them these past few weeks) is Tuesday, and then it’s all about closing down the apartment for the summer and packing for vacation.

As for Ramadan, I’m surprised how easy it was for me to adapt to it.  During the month of Ramadan everything slows down because Muslims are fasting, but it picks right back up again at night.  Basically, from around 4 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. there is no drinking (including water), eating (including chewing gum), cursing, immoral behavior of any sort in public (or private for that matter if you’re Muslim).  It’s a time of charity, reflection, and connecting with God by realizing what it’s like to not have what we’re used to having when we want.  Of course there’s a lot more to it, but this is just my quick summary.  What we westerners need to remember is it’s a sacred, spiritual time for the people who’ve invited us to live and work in their communities.  At night it’s also a festive time to celebrate the joys of living — which,of course, includes lots of food and family.  I was touched to have one of my students call to invite me to her family’s Iftar (the dinner where fast is broken) Thursday night.  I couldn’t go because of our little hallway shin dig.

The country does not shut down like I expected.  People still work (although at reduced or altered hours), and modifications are made for those of us who aren’t fasting.  Some restaurants in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are open during the day.  In Al Ain some restaurants will deliver food during certain pre-Iftar hours.  There might be some that are open, but I don’t know of them, and that’s okay because I’m good with waiting until Iftar.  I’m allowed to eat and drink in my apartment, or even in the English room at work (although I try to reserve it for home).

While there is no loud music, the lounges I like to frequent open at night, and, most surprising of all, our special Spinneys is still open for business during daylight hours — just in case anyone needs a pick-me-up.

There’s also Iftar restaurant specials everywhere that range from a burger with soup and salad to extravagant spreads.  We’ve tried quite a few already.

2015-06-28 19.44.48 A wide variety of teas and juices are offered during Iftar buffets.  A popular one is Jallab, date juice infused with rose water and pine nuts.  It tastes like you have a garden in your mouth (without bugs, dirt and fertilizer).  There’s also this syrupy thing that’s sold by the caseload in supermarkets.  Freshly-squeezed watermelon juice is my favorite though (and that you can get any time of the year).2015-06-28 19.47.51   my plate of Arabic goodness doesn’t look appetizing, but everything on there (fish, beef, chicken, rice, veggies) was delicious.  I will go through garlic paste and curry withdrawal this summer.

2015-06-28 19.58.25 me eating said goodness while mascots showed up to entertain the kiddies.  Not pictured is us puffing our shisha while rubbing our full bellies and enjoying each other’s conversation.

While I don’t understand why our work year is so long, I do appreciate this time I have to relax with my friends and colleagues while learning more about UAE culture.  I’m also getting really excited about my upcoming vacation, which begins in just 5 days — holy insert word of choice (it’s Ramadan people).  Shannan and I have booked our last night at a hotel in Dubai, where we plan on swimming, eating and shishaing until (okay there will be sleep too) boarding our early morning flight to Prague.  Europe here we come!  And oh my goodness it’s almost officially the end of my first year here!

Sand and suites!

DSC07291

All hail Princess Bettina and Princess Shannan because we got to spend the night in a suite that included 24 hour butler service and, well, lights and a/c that he had to show us how to use because after a few margaritas the iPad switch thingy was just too much for our royal brains to comprehend. [side note:  the butler doesn’t actually stay in room with us — just in case you were wondering]

BUT, the trip didn’t start off royally.  Long story short: que the Beverly Hillbilly music because dumbass me got my spiffy lil rental stuck in a sandpit.  Shannan and I got all dusty and sweaty trying to get it out.  We found cardboard and branches to shove under tires.  We revved engine in reverse and forward.  We kicked the tires.  We prayed.  What we got was a hole leading to China until our heroes — a pick up full of men — stopped to pull us out.

car men sadly this photo doesn’t show that there were like 4 or 5 of them helping out.  It does, however, show the three-stooges scene where the seat-belt cable thingy broke free of my car (it worked the second pull though)

I danced my version of a humdullah, shukran happy happy joy joy dance — possibly making these poor souls second guess their decision to stop.  But, they politely nodded their version of a “welcome miss” and piled back into their truck to go their way while we went ours — straight to Emirates Palace, baby.

Of course when we pulled up to valet parking our now-filthy hyundai accent got an inferiority complex because let’s face it he’s small and has absolutely no power. You know the Rolls Royces and Lamborghinis totally effed with it once the lights went out.

We walked to registration only to be stopped and greeted by a lovely lady who took our documents.  We were like oh shit she knows we don’t belong here.  We’re getting kicked out.  But, instead, she returned with a bouquet of roses, scented towels (probably so we could wipe the sweat tracks off our faces) and the offer of tea or juice.  We were asked to sit while they checked us in.  I’m going to show my low-class colors here, but I have never ever had a check in where they came to me instead of me waiting in line for them.  After all the processing was done we were introduced to our butler, a tall Norwegian (I think) whose back was so straight I’m sure it hurt.

buttler DSC07298

While our nordic butler was all polished and dignified, we were not.  As soon as he opened the double doors (using a faux gold coin, our key!) we were Omgodding and giggling like school girls, with the occasional “oh shit did you see this?!”  As soon as that man left we were jumping on the king size bed and calling out to our new neighbor the sheik (seriously his palace was to the right, or so we were told by our butler — hahahaha love typing “our butler”).

DSC07284 DSC07292there are a lot of domes to look over before seeing the real palace in the background.  The zoomed in shot was taken while we were at the beach.  Hey there neighbors!

The room was so large our bathroom had its own chandelier.  I wish I took photos of the metal sinks or the rain shower, which was so tall it really looked like you were getting rained on.

DSC07265 DSC07264just a  lil peak of our suite (and that’s the chandelier in our living room).  That t.v. you see in the corner is massive — a 50 something inch one for sure.

We just sat in our room awhile taking it all in while sipping fresh mango juice and nibbling on our bowl of fruit.  Later on we were treated to Patchi chocolates (for those of you not in the UAE these are expensive chocolates that seem to be at every wedding and special celebration.  I’m so spoiled now, 5 minutes into an event I’m like “okay where’s the Patchi?”).

Eventually we tore ourselves from the room to check out the east-end pool and beach, which is the adult only section (although I did see kids there).  The west-end pool and beach includes a lazy river, an assortment of game tables, water slides and enough kid pool toys to cater to a whole village.  Don’t want to walk, no problem Miss.  There are golf carts waiting to take you, or you can nab one of the resort bicycles and peddle to the other side.

cosmo Okay, so this shot is from the west side, but she has gold flakes in her cosmo!

hammock best part (other than the in-pool bar of course) of east-side:  hammocks IN the pool.  What a genius idea!

After living it up in the pool, we met up with Suzanne for her birthday dinner at a restaurant where for a certain time period it’s all you can eat off the menu and all you can drink margaritas.  Sadly, we had to leave the hotel for this, but that’s okay because our royal coffers probably couldn’t afford dinner at the palace.

drinks_1424875187

And here are a few shots of the hotel — just to rub in the luxury a bit more

DSC07323 DSC07304 Princess me twirling in the lobby.

DSC07290 Princess Shannan welcoming whomever wants to join us.

DSC07279 a peak of our hotel from its east-side beachDSC07311 don’t know what this is, but it’s gold and looks cool.

And last but not least, before going to bed we took advantage of the humungo bathtub/jacuzzi, which could’ve passed for a small pool.

DSC07350 the floor was still wet the next morning.  We may have overdone it a bit with the bubbles.

Day 2 we spent lounging in the lazy river.  Needless to say we did NOT want to leave, but alas our jobs and real lives expected us back.  To my UAE buddies:  take advantage of this sale.  When will you ever get to be this spoiled again?  It’s the closest most of us will ever be to the millionaire lifestyle.  OH, and it includes a lovely breakfast the next morning.  I kind of wanna go again next weekend, but, um, I only have like 200 dirhams in my account (but shhhh don’t tell my butler).

I also wrote about this for TeachUAE (sans the bubble bath shots and cuss words):  Teach UAE link.

Next time around I’ll try to remember to tell you about graduation and our last days at school.  Oh wait it’ll also be Ramadan, so I’ll be sure to tell you all about that.

Time to aahhhh….

50 cakeAnother birthday cake.  Suzanne spoiling me at her place!

So, the students have stopped coming (until next week when they return for exams), and the work day is shorter, and life is, well, pretty damned easy right now — except for those days when it hit 123 F outside, now that’s just miserable.  I have time to do whatever it is I need to do.

So far I’ve:

  • Booked summer vacation rooms and train tickets
  • Planned and mapped out Christmas vacation plans
  • Read two books, started another
  • Finished up a Teach UAE article a week before deadline
  • Tooled around with my fun writing — should really get serious about doing something more organized with it, but then again would that keep it in the ‘fun’ category?
  • Started working out again — Thank God!  My inner thighs truly hate me right now.  Best part is I cool off in the Rotana pool afterward, so there’s a treat to look forward to when I’m sweating my bottom off.
  • Caught up with friends and did a lot of eating and beverage sipping.
  • Finished up a few t.v. series and finally started watching Mad Men — the chauvinism is a hard pill to swallow at first, but I guess like the women way back then I’m learning to take it, but only because it’s on the small screen and not my real life. And damn! My lungs and liver are shot just watching these people smoke/drink their way through the day.
  • Yelled OMG at the last few episodes of Game of Thrones.  Can you believe there is only one more episode left?  At first it felt like this season was dragging, now it’s ending too quickly.  Go Danerys! Boo on fire psycho and her stupid low-life chosen king.  And, poor Jon Snow knows too much now (and wishes he didn’t).

And yeah that’s pretty much my life right now.  Did I mention how much I’m loving this?  Don’t worry I won’t be bragging about playing this much forever (but I’ve got a few good months ahead of me).  Teaching is hard here too, and I don’t yet understand why we’re here until July 9, but I’ll take it (although if my employers are reading:  we could end the school year in June — just a suggestion).

There’s plenty more planned to keep me busy until I take off for Prague on July 10th — and eventually home with my family on July 30th.

me and champs Toodle loo until next time when I tell you all about my night (this weekend)  in a palace (er, 7 star hotel).  I can’t get over how excited I am about this.

p.s. for the record I’m not losing any weight like I had planned.  arrghhh.

p.s.s. I was going to include a bunch of fun pool pics of my friends but then realized I hadn’t asked them first, so this time around you’re stuck with just photos of me.  I’ll try to spruce it up with more fun pics next time around.

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.

%d bloggers like this: