Category Archives: Al Ain year three

Safari!

DSC04787

I’ve been busy readjusting to my real world, which included Michelle’s first Dubai brunch and good-bye happy hour.  I have around four more weeks of actual classes, and then it’s grading, paperwork and exam proctoring.  Plus, the whole selling my stuff and closing out my residency here.  It’s going to be a busy time that’ll fly by quickly.

So, before I get bogged down with all of that, let me blast you with safari pics and thoughts.  There are so many guides you can use, and we checked out a lot of them.  Our plan was to fly into Mombassa and do a 3-night tour that included Amboseli and one night at the Salt Lick Lodge.  We ended up going with Julius T. Safaris based of his fair price and good TripAdvisor reviews, and we’re glad we did.  Our driver Moses was awesome, and all of our accommodations were great.  Moses worked hard to make sure we were comfortable and seeing what we wanted to see.  Asante Sana and a big ole hug to him for making this such a great adventure for us.

girls sipping safari

Cheers Moses!  We three taking a balcony break at Salt Lick Lodge.  My laptop is out, so I could hurry and post the lion pictures we got that day.   What a high that was!

safari girls

Safari girls coming out the roof!

I have so many pictures and stories to tell, but there’s not enough time to sort through them all.  All I know is driving through the savannah sunrise and sunset is pretty damned awesome stuff — even better is doing a night drive under the milky way with lions bellowing out their discontent.

DSC05094DSC05091

These two guys were sleeping when we crept up on them.  Before we got to them we were mostly marvelling at the night sky.  Michelle kept asking if we could turn the car lights off to see more falling stars.  Her request was ignored UNTIL we came up close to these two and woke them up.  Then our spotlight guy told Moses to shut the lights.  Mind you the roof was up, our windows were open, and there were lions just a jump or two away from us.  It was pitch black, except for the stars.  For the first time in my life I empathised with my dogs’ chew toys because I was pretty sure I’d share their fate.  Then the lights came back on, the boys got up, walked away and ROARED at us.  I might have peed a little.

We also got to see lions during the day.  The first time was on our second day of safari where we saw a lioness in the distance, later on in the late afternoon game drive we saw another lioness being chased by a herd of elephants.  Apparently, she was just too close to their babies for their liking.  She ran right across the road in front of our van.  This was our lion highlight until the next day when Moses pulled up to another snoozing couple.

My legs shook for a good while after this one.  Mama lion was all stretched out snoozing while Daddy patiently waited for her.  We were told they were on their honeymoon.

We were so high on adrenaline after that we needed a cocktail break overlooking the waterhole at Salt Lick.  It turned into a freak show for the birds.

DSC05008DSC04980

but we fed them

DSC04960

We also got to watch monkeys drink and play.

DSC05074DSC05064

Another highlight of the trip was getting caught in the rain.  All of a sudden the skies just dumped on us and the herd of water buffalo nearby.  I have no pics of this to do it justice, but Michele posted video of our running with the bulls (and one day I’ll put together a video page for this blog).  Our van and the buffalo were hightailing it outta the mud together.  I swear we were living the National Geographic camera crew life.

DSC04302

Dry buffalo wondering why I’m still clicking away — rain is gone in this pic, and so is the need to run.

DSC04172

Elephants and zebras wowed us too!  Lol check out the wild ones in the bottom corner throwing out their “hey bitch!  whatcha doing?”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

But this lil guy was my fave

DSC04326

And all of these animals amazed us too

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I literally have around 2,0000 photos to scan through, so this is just a taste of all the adorableness we saw, and, yes, I wanted to scrub every one of their bellies — even the lions.  But, I like my arms so I kept them to myself.

We also got to visit a Masai village.

DSC04463DSC04466DSC04461DSC04481DSC04487DSC04516

And there is so much more to share, but it is Thursday night, and I did just finish my first whole week of teaching again.  I don’t know who was more tired by the end of it — me or the girls.  And, I cannot believe just two weeks ago we were doing all of these amazing things. Luckily, the theme for this trimester is exploration and discovery, so I’ve got plenty I can share with my girls.

DSC04316

Until the next time, here’s a tiny tree tough enough to live amongst the wild.

My Mundane

 

DSC04002

I see camels every day on my work commute, so you’d think I get tired of seeing them.  Nope.  Here they are sunning themselves on a Dubai beach.

Work is finally easy again, and I have a week and a few days before I’m on spring break, so woo hoo to that.  It’s much needed after surviving inspection week, and then final marking, plus a night class and an online class I need to try and finish before Michelle arrives next week.

I’ve been keeping myself busy with the kind of stuff we do here.  I’ve happy houred with friends, I’ve cooked yummy, healthy meals, lol and I’ve gone out and ate yummy non healthy meals, I’ve  eaten dinner and watched movies/t.v. with friends, I’ve treated myself to an amazing spa day, and I’ve gone to Dubai and beached it, chilled with friends.  Basically doing my version of the mundane, which will transition into another version of mundane in about 5 months.   Good news is I love my routine, every day stuff because boring it aint.

16998914_10212486392459850_3162194297084349469_n

Karak and roses the day after inspections ended.  I will never tire of the girls giving me flowers.  The tea cart coming around was a treat from our admin, and in case they’re reading — I’d never tire of receiving that every day either!

veggies

Free veggies from a stranger!  I’ve discovered a cauliflower alfredo sauce that is to die for and made roasted beets and broccoli — yum, yum.  Now, if only I could keep enjoying the veggies and stay away from the breads and pastries I might actually get rid of my buddha belly.  But, alas, I’m a locust I eat everything in sight.

thumb_DSC04038_1024

Oh Dubai … you’re so random.  So, if you cross between the creek/marina area and Jumeirah beach you might find some interesting cross guards to help you out.  Of course traffic wasn’t a problem this time of the morning, but thanks dudes for being willing to take one for the team in case a speeder decided not to stop!

Kicking up my feet and relaxing in Dubai.  LOL um those are penguins on my feet — not the best nail art considering when you look down they look more like cartoonish burqas.  Totally NOT my intent!

thumb_DSC04025_1024

Oh Dubai you’re also oh so beautiful … just our view during a morning walk.

spa me

Me all clean and spiffy after a hammam, massage and facial!

DSC04003

Me before my spa day!

And that’s all I’ve got for you now, but lots of fun things planned the next few weeks, so hang in there I’m sure I’ll have more to post soon.

Born Free…

dsc00039

This one’s dedicated to my pets back home.  My 15 year old Akita/Samoyed Meiko has always been a runner.  She is the sweetest, smartest, most loving and loyal dog, but if you leave the front door or back gate open she will sniff the air, give you the look that says “catch me if you can,” and before you can grab her collar zoom! she’s off.

During her younger days, the pound must’ve had a special Meiko cell.  She’s had several overnight stays.  One time the kids and I found her playing in the skateboard park.  The teens tied a bandanna around her neck, and she was having a blast chasing them up and down the ramps (or are they called bowls?).  Another time I found her eating lunch with some construction workers.  She’s a beautiful dog (albeit really stinky and shabby now), so I’m amazed no one ever managed to snatch her up to keep.  Oh, and if you’re wondering why we were so stupid leaving the door open too many times, she can also open the back sliding glass door with her nose (well she could when she was younger).  The back gate has latch issues, and, well, when someone works on something in the backyard inevitably Meiko finds her way out.

The dog is really old.  15 is hard in Akita years.  She’s half blind, deaf and crippled.  If Joe takes her for a walk she spends the rest of the week recuperating from it.  She’s also a little senile and forgets sometimes that she needs to poo, so when she farts she is as amazed as the rest of us when a pellet shoots across the room.

I was a wreak yesterday because Joe messaged me to let me know she got out again.  Unfortunately, the painters didn’t think she’d run, oh but she did.  Our other dog Badger is a bit of a spaz and while he loves a good walk, he doesn’t like venturing far without one of us with him, so he stayed but freaked out all night long when he had to go to bed without her.  It’s going to be so hard on him when she passes.  It’s going to be hard on all of us.  We’ve known her and loved her all of her life.

My people back home know I didn’t abandon them.  They know I needed to do this overseas adventure because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and the timing and job was right.  But, my pets are another story.  One of the disadvantages of this life is leaving them behind.  Luckily, my dogs (and one pissy cat) are still at their home with the rest of their family, but it bothers me that I can’t be with them.  It kills me that I probably won’t be with Meiko during her last moments, and the thought of her being out in the rain (Phoenix had rain this weekend!) with none of us (especially me, the woman who should’ve chipped her!  sadly her dog tags are connected to my old phone number, and I didn’t think to change it) broke my heart.  All of us who are over here with pets back home, miss our animals dearly.  We all go through moments of this is so unfair to Fido, and I’m such an irresponsible pet owner.  How dare I do this?  And then we remind ourselves, hello?  we left people too.  But anyway, you get the point.  I miss my other babies too and wish I was home with them (except when I’m out gallivanting about the world).

The good news is my daughter found Meiko through a Facebook page that posts lost/found dog pics (see social media isn’t just for fake news and silly status updates!).   That dog did not spend the night out in the cold.  Instead she was 10 houses down with a very nice lady who thought she was a ‘gem.’  So, my pooch had her probable last escape, and Joe got to meet and thank a good neighbor.

But yeah we expats sure do miss our dogs.  Oh, and yes you can bring your animals here.  It’s just very expensive, and in my case it would’ve been unfair to the dogs to ship them all the way over here where half the year it’s too hot to walk them outside without socks on.

Oh and I better include a shot of Felony.  She’d make me pay if I didn’t include her, and yes I love her too.

colorsplashexportedimage-2

Not much to report on…

I was supposed to go to Dubai this weekend, but my body had something else in store for me.  Let’s just say some sort of terrorist act took place in my stomach.  I’m on the mend, hydrating away, but damn not a fun way to lose weight.

So, I’m making a dent in my couch while binge watching shows like The Crown.  I may have watched too much last night because I dreamt I was a queen mother preparing my son for the throne, which is pretty hilarious — royalty is not what comes to mind when my kin are mentioned (and I am certainly no queen mother).  That said I did get excited when I saw the episode where young Queen Elizabeth and her husband safari in Kenya since I’ll be there in just six weeks.  Come on Spring Break!  I need you.

It’s been chilly here.  We had a rain storm a week or two ago and some cold (for us) temps.  It snowed in a northern Emirate, which brought on this:

3cd7bb4300000578-4192220-image-a-3_1486250314095

And, I actually wore boots to work all week last week.  My toes were totally confused.  The resignation window for my place of employment opened up, so I officially resigned, but I forgot to put in my passport number (aargh), so lol I resigned again this weekend. Let’s see if it takes.  It feels weird doing this so early, but, hopefully, this means the process will go smoother than I anticipate.  We shall see.

Work is busy right now, and I hated taking a sick day yesterday because we’re down to the wire.  We’ve got to finish up a lot of stuff before the girls begin their exams in March, and they’re antsy right now.  Hell, I’m antsy.  That is the beauty of February.  We’re all antsy and have a lot to accomplish.  It’ll get done; it always does.  And then I’ll be squealing over elephants and giraffes, so I can hang in there.

I had to sign up for some after-school training, which I’m not excited about, but the reward for going is three days off when Michelle is in town, so I’ll do it.  And, I’ve signed up for an online TEFL cert  because I need education hours to renew my teaching license in May (and another language cert doesn’t hurt), so my brain will be the next one to explode and wreak havoc on my otherwise peaceful life. Hopefully, I’ll be able to use some of it in my classes.  We shall see.  (I’m in the we shall see mode of life again)

As for life in the UAE we have maybe a month or two of good weather left, so we’re happy about that.  It’s beautiful and breezy out right now, so I’ll spend part of the day sipping tea on my balcony.  I realise it’s cruel for me to type this while American friends and relatives on the north east coast are getting blasted with snow.  Trust me, I’ll be blasted with heat in too soon a time.

Financially, my credit card is having a heart attack because I’ve booked Joe and the kids flights for this summer, and Joe is finishing up the final touches on my house before putting it on the market.  InshAllah it all gets paid off before I leave in July.  InshAllah my house sells for a good price, and I won’t need to worry about balances and whatnot.

And that’s pretty much me right now, unless you want to read about my need to get off this couch and do laundry and clean house (I’m procrastinating, can you tell?).

 

Watching the crazy…

dsc03555

Reykjavik, December 2016

Is it just me or was last week totally exhausting.  OMG so much going on at the same time, and then, well, there’s, you know, the news back home.  I am just totally drained (lol and haven’t been back to work long), and sitting here going WTF.  dsc09201

Zanzibar, December 2015

The good news is my spring break is just eight weeks away, and I’ve got most of that trip booked.  My friend Michelle is coming for a visit, and then we’re flying off to Kenya for a week.  Safaris, beaches and plenty else will keep us amazed and loving life.  But, damn, I gotta survive February first.   This is always the hardest time of year at work (for me).  I won’t bore you with the details, but I’m looking forward to March and being past where we are right now.  I’m pretty sure my girls are with me on that too.  If only the days would go by faster, and then slow down when we get to the easy part again.  Yeah, I know I’m greedy.

I’m also in the process of booking my family’s summer vacation while beginning my close out process.  I’m starting to sell my stuff, and getting my head into the resignation thing, which I don’t look forward to.  It’s hard because while I’m happy to move on to the next phase, I’m really sad to leave this life (maybe not ALL of it, but most of it).  It’s been good to me, but it’s time I moved along with my man full time again —- and with as much time as my kids will allow me to spend with them (since they’re busy doing their own versions of the adult thing).

I’m nervous about my job prospects at this point — more so than I was a few months ago — but it will all work out.  Joe says I need to relax and just enjoy living off of his paycheque for a bit before I get back into working full time again.  I keep telling myself to quit the damned worrying — hello?  housewife with no kids?  pinch me!

I type all of this knowing full and well my dilemma is not a dilemma at all. There are plenty worse lives to lead.  Go back 20 years, and I’d slap you for teasing me with such a lie.  There’s no way I could’ve imagined this to be my conflict, so I’ll take it — even with all the unknowns and uglies going on in our world right now.  I’m still loved, supported, healthy with a whole slew of possibilities in front of me.  Of course none of us knows what the future holds, and there are so many whose present isn’t even as close to as good as my past, which was hard but still a lucky life.

dsc03578

Reykjavik, December 2016

And when I am working I no longer feel like this poor guy — although lol sometimes I do feel like that goose behind him.

But yeah I’m just kicking back right now watching the crazy and waiting for my next move (while also enjoying our lovely weather here and my friends who’ve become family).

dsc03573

It won’t be long before I awkwardly (because you know I’m the chunky bird flapping and kicking me feet willing my fat ass up and over) fly to my next horizon.

Size doesn’t matter, but lies and bias do

images-1 taken from https://amplitude.com/blog/2016/06/07/cognitive-biases-ruining-growth/

So, I embarrassed myself yesterday.  On Facebook, I posted a link to a biased news story that wasn’t completely correct.  It showed millions of Muslims gathering to protest ISIS.  Granted the crowd part and the quest for peace part and location were all correct, but this gathering was not a protest but an annual event of a religious nature.   I posted it to show that Muslims in other countries do protest against terrorism (because I’m sometimes asked why ‘they’ don’t speak up more).  My intentions were good, and to be totally honest I only cross checked the story with one other news site BECAUSE it was something that connected with my views.   Surely, it was correct.

BUT, it wasn’t.  And just because my intentions were good and it supported something I believe it doesn’t mean it’s right.  And, this is, what I believe, one of our biggest problems  is right now.  It’s way too easy to back up our belief system with proof.  It’s also really easy to connect with our crowd and get all riled up about the other side because, you know, they’re assholes or idiots trying to take away our way of life.  And when we humans vent with people of the same mind we tend to get angrier and angrier.  With all this ‘proof’ we shut down the other side, and they are no longer one of us.  They are the bad guys.

I don’t give a torn ballot how big or small the inauguration crowd was.  Seriously it says nothing about who the new president will be —- although it does provide a glimpse into his or, one day, her popularity.  I —- take a picture here —- agree that the crowd size shouldn’t have been a story.  But, unfortunately, when the enormity of the event was bragged about beforehand, people are going to pay attention to it, and, well, report on it.

This would have been a perfect time for our new president to show that he is here to lead not rule by ignoring such trivial stories and focusing on telling us what he was signing and why.  But, instead, he accused the media of lying and had his press secretary recite “alternate facts.”   Unfortunately for him, the numbers are real.  They weren’t important before, but now they’re proof that either the “leftist” media is lying or proof that the president is, depending on who you ask.   Real fact is fake and fake fact is real.  Am I really living in an alternate world?

Accusations, name calling, fact skewering has gone amuck.   We’re all clinging to our version of reality while the real world is crumbling before our very eyes.  We cannot afford to continue giving in to bias just because it supports our side because it’s quickly becoming the norm to use that shit as ‘truth.’

I’m sharing this here because in a few months I will be crossing the border back into my own country, and I am so very concerned about where things are going.  Too much anger is brewing and too many lies are being clung to, and they have been for too long of a time.  We have got to get it together.  I am not the enemy, nor are my fellow Republicans, but our inability to collaborate with the other side will be the end of us.  Tschhhh, do not go into the blame game; my point is people we need to talk and listen and find ways to work together versus apart, and we need to go back to ‘just the facts mam.’  I don’t want to hear about how my side did this and how your side did that (vice versa), and blah, blah, blah.  We’re all the asshole idiots if we continue to go that route.

Regardless of whether you think the media coverage was right or wrong —- our president flat out had his people lie to the American people because his ego was bruised.  His people are waisting precious time playing the word game and manipulating us into a bigger divide while calling for unity.   This is dangerous, and no one’s side is going to be served unless we unite against our own ignorances.  Better, affordable health care, more money in our bank accounts, education, the pursuit of happiness for ‘we the people,’ all of that is at stake for every one of us — despite how each of us thinks we need to get the job done.

Please, America, do not allow our leaders to be as careless with their media posts or speeches as I was with mine, despite how well intentioned they think they may be.  Do not allow yourselves to do that.  We have to be vigilant in ensuring the facts we use to base our solutions on are indeed facts and not some spin to serve our own interests.  The irony of it all is if we ever get to this point we might actually learn that the majority of us want the same damned things.

But if we continue to allow this crazy making that’s going on in our society (including our contribution to it), I’m sorry to say, we are all the bad guys.  We chose to not be a united folk after all.

And if anyone needs a tutorial on how to begin talking to the other side, this little guy has some great pointers:

Back to reality (and a few final words on Iceland)

dsc03357

lol just using this pic because I like it!

Well I’ve been back to my current real world and wearing only one layer of clothing for almost two weeks now.  I’ve pretty much been catching up on sleep, catching up with friends here, working and watching Netflix (OA you sucked me in) —- and, of course, planning my next two big adventures (spring break and summer).

Work is full of changes, which is a constant, and I’m as ready as I can be to guide my girls through it (and it’s good to hear their voices and see their smiles again). InshAllah we end it all in May (when they finish classes; I finish work in July?) with all of us having learned some good things.

The hardest thing for me right now is NOT applying for jobs.  I’m so used to having something lined up, and some good posts are popping up all over the place.  But, Joe keeps reminding me to relax and allow some chill time (heheheh maybe even Netflix and chill time). This will be the only time I can take some time off while he’s working because once I begin my next full-time position he’s retiring and it’s all on me (well except for the fact that we’re totally using his monthly pension for trips here and there).  I’ve never been a kept woman before, so that’s a new border to cross, and I really do like lazy.  I’m also really excited about going home to my family and beginning our next phase, wherever that will lead.  But first I will have to begin the process of closing my life here, but let’s save that for February or March or, knowing me, later.

Before any of that, I need to tell you the rest about Iceland.  I loved that we visited in winter, but I also wish we could go there during the summer.  Summer offers MUCH longer days, better weather and more sites.  I’d love to see their green!  Oh and the sheep taking over the landscape, and the puffins, and, and…those of you who go during summer can tell me all about it.

15826100_10211904374189757_2201716687686788311_n

Pic by Joe

That said Joe did get to go inside a barn and meet the sheep.  Um, apparently, the rams are living high on the hog making lambs while they all are warm and protected in their barns.  Come spring, all of them are allowed to wander outdoors and feast themselves into a juicy, plump frenzy.

 These are the best pics I have of Gullfoss falls, a famous stop on the Golden Circle drive, because it was windy AF and frigid.  I was terrified I was going to get blown away.  One gust literally blew my feet from under me, and I was pleased with myself for using the poor petite woman in front of me to stop my fall — she, however, had some choice words in her language for me (although didn’t hear them — too busy yelling oh shit).  Besides, I’m pretty sure I saved her from becoming a kite, so all is well.

And these are the best pics I could get of a geyser going off.  Love the first one because whoops it went off spewing silica my way before I was ready to capture the geyser.  But, again thanks to winter weather not the best shots.  You will see no selfies of me that day because I was the antithesis of sexy.

My pros and cons of visiting during winter

Pros:  Ice caves and experiencing the weather!  There’s a tourist ice cave all year long somewhere on the island, but that’s not the real deal.  There’s nothing like knowing you are inside — INSIDE! — a flipping glacier.  And, my man now has bragging rights — he can drive through anything.  Trust me he’ll remind me of this the next time I bitch about his driving.

  • Doing the Blue Lagoon while it’s snowing.  I’m sure it’s amazing in summer, but I love that we were swimming outside during a snow storm.  Sadly, I have no good pics to show.  We were there at night in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights, which we did that night, but at our hotel.  And, I didn’t have my son’s GoPro on the right setting, so lots of stupid videos of Joe and Me thinking we’re taking selfies. p.s. know that this IS a tourist trap and it will be busy, not something Joe and I tend to like to do, but for we nonlocals it’s still worth it — as are the other geothermal pools we didn’t get to experience.
  • The Northern Lights!  Who doesn’t want to see that?  There’s no guarantee that you will see them, but we lucked out and saw them twice — both times totally unexpected.
  • It’s off tourist season, so prices are lower.  BUT, let me caution you there are more tourists here during winter than you expect.  Somewhere in Asia there’s a super cheap deal going on because there were busloads of groups, every where we went.  Joe and I wanted the isolation and solitude of winter — we needed it — and while we had plenty of alone time, we were never totally alone on the roads.  Every time we saw horses near the road, there were carloads of folk pulled over petting them — damn it all I wanted one to myself!

dsc03236

dsc03230

These are the only good people-free shots I have, and I’m telling you this horse and I connected.  She WANTED me to pet her, but alas the people I politely shoved out of the way were craftier when it came to actual touch time.

I can’t imagine what Iceland is like in summer when it is tourist season.  I love people and everyone was really nice (except perhaps me), BUT it’s not as much fun visiting nature’s wonders when there are busloads of us around.  That said in summer you could hike remote areas!

  • New Year’s in Reykjavik.  It’s something you should try to do at least once in your life.  It’s a fun city, and this is — so I’m told — the biggest party of the year.

Cons:  The weather and shorter days.  While we liked experiencing the arctic’s touch of crazy, it prevented us from doing and seeing so much.  If we ever go again I’d like to hike all over, explore the north and maybe even make it to the western fjords.

dsc03189dsc03198dsc03172dsc03166

Take for example the area around Vic.  While these pics look harmless enough, the weather was relentless that day.  We pulled over at one area to walk the black sand beaches, and we couldn’t get out of the car because we were pummelled with black-sand wind gusts.  It was like a killer bee movie, only with sand and hurricane force winds.  The waves are also no joke!  I’m told that’s an all-year thing, so watch out for them.

While we were there some days only had 4 hours of sunlight, some had less or none thanks to storms, but oh my goodness when the sun did come out — she and Iceland showed off their stuff!

thumb_dsc02616_1024dsc03210dsc03204

Even the fog coming in did lovely dances with the sun.

dsc_0062dsc03372dsc03385dsc03439

thumb_dsc03369_1024

A plus to other tourists is they’ll take a pic of you in the sun!  LOL Joe braving it all with his jacket off, my polar bear.

Regardless of whether you visit Iceland in the summer or winter, it’s worth the money, but please do pay attention to the people who live there.  This might be a wonderland of ewws and aahs to you, but it’s been their home for thousands of years.  When they tell you it’s going to be a bad weather day; it’s CNN Breaking News weather to you.

They love their land, and they’re such a fun, welcoming people and happy to share it, but some of us disrespect that welcome when we do things like drive places we’re not supposed to drive or stop in the middle of the damned road to take a pic — or even worse disrespect the land and its people by polluting, etc. (although we didn’t see any of that).

Darn it all I’m going off on tangents now, and wishing we could plan a summer trip back to Iceland.  There’s people we’d like to see again and camping and there I go drooling again.

thumb_dsc02627_1024

Oh too-small SUV how we miss the adventures we took with you! and we’re off the road, I swear!

And since I’m back in my real world for now, there are things I should get done today.  Farewell Iceland, our new beloved friend!  InshAllah we’ll meet again.

p.s. We also have so many video clips of our crazy experiences driving.  I’m hoping one day I’ll actually put them together for a quick clip, but, well, you know how much I love lazy.

 

Ice, ice baby!

For our first few days it’s been nothing but wind and snow.  On the day we set off for our ice cave adventure it was all about the rain — OMG so much rain (and wind).  It seems the only constant in Iceland weather is the brutal wind (it’s whipping against our window as I type — kudos to the carpenters, the shit holds).

As uncomfortable as walking on ice in the rain is, we lucked out because our guide said he believes the rain will make the cave unsafe.  The poor souls who booked hikes for today will not get to see the wonders we did.

According to Wikipedia Iceland has 13 large glaciers, we went with the biggest one, Jokulsarlon Glacier, but don’t worry our tubby selves didn’t hike much of it.  Thanks to the family that owns Hali County farm, which also includes lodging, food, a museum and glacier guides, we didn’t have to work hard.  They did it all for us.  Every winter they hike the glacier in search of the right ice caves to bring their clients to.

Ice caves are formed by the glacier rivers that flow in the summer.  The caves are basically tunnels created by melting water.  They are monitored daily (hourly, I believe, on rainy days) to ensure they are safe enough for we tourists to eww and ahhh and click selfies like there’s no tomorrow.  So far this season it’s only been used a few times thanks to unstable conditions.  Again, Joe and I are grateful for our luck.

The rules are you keep your crampons (if you want to walk without falling) and helmet on, and you don’t leave the cave without a guide.  We were also advised not to venture into the dark portion of the cave because it’d be too narrow for us (just wait until you see how rounded Joe and I truly are when layered up and wearing a helmet that emphasises our chunky chins).

As for global warming, we learned that shrinking and growing is a normal part of a glacier’s life cycle, however, the rate of its melting the past few years is unprecedented.  It’s changing the landscape of Iceland, and Icelanders are seeing things they’ve not seen before.  Each year its retreat is significantly different.

dsc03010

This picture doesn’t show it properly, but you see our snow vehicles right? (and while I know fossil fuel is part of the problem, it was awesome being in a snow jeep)  Okay look way beyond them and you see a black band of sand where three vehicles are parked.  That’s where the entrance to the ice cave was last year.  Basically, its melt has brought it that much farther in.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After visiting the cave we stopped at Glacier beach and lagoon, and oh wow.  I just wish it wasn’t raining so hard, so I could whip out my DSLR and get better pics, but my hardy little Sony bridge camera (love that thing) held out in the rain and still captured some of it.   Anyway here’s proof that Iceland isn’t just blue.  It’s black and crystal clear too!

dsc03056

Don’t those ice fragments look like crystal seals/walruses/pick your blubber critter.

Some shots of glacier beach and lagoon…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve got to hurry and finish this up since we’re checking out and facing another windy/wet drive (to Vik).  This is blow your house down weather.

Anyway, here’s some more shots of Iceland ice…

dsc02794dsc02789dsc02767

and a taste of how the weather and landscape change in just 24 hours

dsc03100

snowy landscape one day

dsc03085

fog, dormant grass and rain the next!

Of course there’s plenty more to share, but we’re off again!  When I have more time I’ll whip up a post about all the rest.

dsc02853

until then we’re off exploring this great island (and it’s totally worth coming here in winter if you’re okay with bad weather).

I went straight to Hel … sinki!

plane-ice

My first view of Finland.  Baby it’s cold out there (although according to the locals not so much for this time of year).

I’ve rediscovered what I hate about the cold.  It’s not the cold; it’s walking into a heated building all bundled up and sweating your ass off.  You’ve gotta strip a few layers off and then lug them around while you sweat and shop.  I’m building arm muscles…

It’s 3:30 p.m. on my third day in Helsinki, and the sun has set again.  She doesn’t stay out very long — probably because there’s awesome mulled wine and lit candles waiting for her indoors.

Hello?  who can blame her the mulled wine is tasty with a bit of a kick to it!  I’ll make this for Christmas at my daughter’s house next year — first 2017 goal set.  Sin of all sins I dare say I like it better than my German ancestor’s Gluhwein, but shhh.

I’ve not been fair to this city because I haven’t toured it as much as I had planned.  I was so tired my first day (thanks to no sleep the night before — oh the fun of flying) that I pretty much just visited shops and sipped coffee and ate an amazing cinnamon roll (rock sugar crystals on top are way, way better than icing!) while waiting for my room to get ready.  I also ate dinner at an Italian place and met two lovely Finnish ladies who suggested a few things to do and taught me three words:  Hey for hello, hey hey for good bye, and Keytoss for thank you!

And oh my god I took the longest, hottest bath when I did get into my room!

My apartment doesn’t have a tub, so I specifically booked this room for it’s deep soaking tub.  LOL and apparently Hotel Glo Kluuvi puts a plush kitty on your bed, so Lil Miss Plush attempted to hog my wine while I bathed.  I won that battle.

Day Two I got up early and spent the day in Talinn, Estonia — what an awesome day too — will write up another blog on that to post next.  And you bet I soaked my sore tootsies in that tub again (threw a pillow on the plush and told her to time out).

Today, my alleged big touring day, I woke up late, sipped Gingerbread latte at Fraziers, a famous coffee house, walked around the harbour, presidential palace (where I saw two stiff guards freezing their kivekset off), and cathedral area, shopped on Aleksanterinkatu (famous shopping street — am totally acquainted with Stockmans now) and warmed my belly with a beef and mushroom stew, and then took a nice long nap.  It’s gray out, and apparently I’m tired, so woo hoo for the time to nap at my leisure. But boo hoo that I didn’t visit a single museum — woe the art I did not get to see!   I’d also like to visit Lapland, so perhaps one day I’ll get to freeze and sweat here again.

My big goal for later today is to visit the big Christmas Market, drink some more Glogi and soak one last time in that tub.

So you see I don’t have a whole lot to tell you about Helsinki or Finland, other than I like it, and despite the short winter days it’s beautiful.  It’s a great place to visit around Christmas time because of all the good comfort food, coffee, adult warm up bevies, and overall ambience.  Plus it’s an easy to navigate place and English is widely spoken, so you’ll have no problems discovering all there is to do. And, oh my goodness there are some awesome looking restaurants and bars, which I did not feel like blowing the dirhams in (solo travel is a lot of fun, but not so much in higher end hangouts, although I bet I’d make new friends pretty quickly here — so far everyone has been friendly). But, I also gotta save my money for Iceland, which is tomorrow!

Just of few snaps of Christmas cheer.  Shop windows are adorned with magical holiday displays, and the smell of roasting nuts, gingerbread and spices keeps you warm!

dsc02190

This is my favourite Helsinki window shot.  Grandma and the kids are mesmerised while parents sneak in some adult huddle time.  Kids are very, very happy here this time of year!

Some Helsinki shots (sorry I was lazy with my camera)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A few hours later:  I made it to the Christmas Market in Senate Square.  Bought some goodies, feasted on some fruity, nutty cake with vanilla sauce, had my glogi and the bath is pouring as I type.  Here’s some more Christmas cheer from Finland for you!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The land of Gods … and grapes!

dsc01816

I should be a good teacher and give you the historical background of Cyprus, the lovely Mediterranean Island near Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Greece, etc. — it’s just a short flight or decent boat ride to a lot of places.  It has also had more than its fair share of conquerers over the centuries — seems like at one point or another everyone wanted a piece of Cyprus, but most of the island gained its independence in 1960.  Part of its northern lands are run by (or occupied by, depending on who you ask) Turkey — it’s a bitter story I’ll leave for the locals to tell.

What drew me to Cyprus was its connection to Greek literature (what up Odysseus?!) and mythology — if you believe tourist sites (and local legend) Aphrodite was born there, Adonis drowned in his reflection there,  and for the low, low price of X you could even visit Athena’s bath — and thanks to it being off tourist season,  the low airfare and resort price (holy moly we got off cheap!).  With a long weekend for National Day (Happy 45th Birthday UAE!) and a zero-balance credit card — who could resist?  It was such a good deal/idea I talked my friend Brandy into joining me.

And this is where good teacher ends because while I certainly saw a lot of Greek and Roman ruins, and I certainly learned a whole lot, I mostly fraternized and sampled their thousands of years of wine making expertise.  Cypriots seem to love drinking, eating and laughing as much as I do — God Bless their ancient souls!

Day One:  Transport from Larnaca airport to Pafos (or like we Westerners seem to prefer Paphos)

Luckily, our driver a British expat, figured out what we’d be most interested in seeing.  Since we landed during an unexpected stormy weekend (yay for we desert dwellers!) we had to cut back on some of the outdoor sites, but we didn’t miss out on Kuorian, an ancient city destroyed by an earthquake in 365 AD.  Awesomeness, yes — just check out the pics.

dsc01844 dsc01829 dsc01824

We hiked up a hill to get to Achilles house … it led to a cliff.  Perhaps it’s made of air.

dsc01818

The red blocks kept their baths warm

dsc01806

Not pictured are the protected mosaics.  Cyprus is known for its well-preserved mosaics.  I was too taken aback by the clouds and sea to photograph those (although I did snap some shots of the mosaics in Pafos).  What can I say?  I’m a bigger fan of the Gods art than ours.

We also drove by the Rock of Aphrodite, which was basically one of three rocks in the sea (google will provide better pics than me — um, I was not impressed and it shows).  My favourite part about this was learning that legend has it if a woman swims around it three times she’d be eternally beautiful, but our driver assured us he’s seen plenty of old Russian women do it to no avail.  So, we didn’t jump in the cold, wild waters.

When we got to Almyra, our resort in Pafos, it was close to sunset time and oh my goodness.  The Gods certainly blessed us with their art!

dsc02106 dsc02087 dsc01905 dsc01894

okay, see how rocky and rough that looks?  And trust me it’s also cold.  Both mornings we saw old Cypriots defrock and jump into those waters.  I kid you not these people swam in that shit.  A local driver told us he doesn’t know how they survive it because he as a 30 something isn’t risking heart attack or death by wave.

dsc01888 dsc01890 dsc01879

I could post so much more, but don’t want to bore you with my gazillion photos.  It was amazing!  We dined at a restaurant on the harbour shores and savoured our grilled meat and local wine.  That night we slept with our windows open just so we could smell the rain, sea and citrus trees while listening to Zeus (okay Jupiter) pound the earth with lighting. Ahhhhmazing.

Day Two:  Pubologists in Pafos!

In a nutshell the modern city of Pafos is built on top of the old one, and you cannot walk around the city and not run into ruins.  Long story short we walked to the harbour, toured its castle (with the help of one of the city’s many friendly cats), walked its coastal walk and escaped rain showers in quite a few pubs.  I won’t say how many, but we met a lot of folk, sampled some bevies and stumbled upon amazing ruins.  My favourite is our accidental climb into an archaeological site — I swear we were just exploring a cave, which had a ladder, which led to yesterday. A man working it waved hi to us, so whew!  we didn’t damage anything.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day three:  Wineologists!  And one brewery (even I will drink Aphrodite beer)

I loved our drive into the mountains and through the small villages.  Everything we did was a trip through time, but this one was my favourite.  What made this even better was the lack of tourists (hahaha except us of course).  We really got to mingle with the winery families and some British expats.  We also walked through a monastery that was so quaint I had to light a candle for my dad.  While he was Roman Catholic and not Greek Orthodox, I know he would’ve loved it there.  Me thinks he may have even been at the table when Brandy and I were treated to a round of Zivania, local moonshine that tastes like Grappa (basically nose-hair burning awfulness, but I did mine like a champ).  Sadly, as good as the wine is and as long as they’ve been making it, it’s not a big export.  Basically, Cyprus wine is pretty much made for Cypriots — and those of us visiting.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is so much more I could share, and we were there for only three nights.  There is still so much more to explore.  Thank you Cyprus for taking us in and showing us a good time!

dsc02145

%d bloggers like this: