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Marhaba Year Three…

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This is how my favorite salon serves me glass of water…they also gave me a super cool manicure that includes ‘mood’ polish, which changes color depending on my body heat.  I freaking love it.  Hot pink means I’m hot, which is most of the time.

I’ve only been back two weeks, but it feels longer because a lot has happened since I landed just two Fridays ago.

First off it does feel good to be back, which is always so weird because at the same time it’s so awful to leave my loved ones.  Socially I’ve not done much:  just eating, drinking and catching up with my friends who are still here (always a good thing).  Work wise it’s been busy, but I’m good.  I have three large sections of girls, but I like them all.  It’ll take me a while to get all of their names straight, but so far I’m happy with this year’s students. Plus, one of my students from last year is chatting with me online, so I’m still getting the scoop on last years girls as well.  How lucky am I to get glimpses of so many budding lives. On Facebook I saw that one of my students from way back just turned 29 — what in the world?!!!

I feel more comfortable and included at work this time around.  I’ve been pulled into meetings I’m normally not part of, but lol I still don’t get much of what is being said since it’s in Arabic. That said fellow local teachers do their best to translate what I need to know, and that is so appreciated.  I know this is not my forever home, but I truly do feel lucky to be where I am.  Despite all the craziness, the last-minute changes, and the chaos of working in another country, I was placed at the right school for me, and I will miss all of this (okay maybe not the chaos and last-minute changes so much) when I leave.  I’d like to think that I too will be missed.  But, we have a whole year ahead of us, so no one’s missing anyone just yet — we’ll save that for June or July of whatever year I leave.

Travelwise on my part things have been a little crazy.  First off we so lucked out this year.  We have ALL of next week off for Eid al-Adha — whoop whoop!  Basically, we come back, go to training for a week, teach for two weeks, and then whalla take another vacation.  Sweet, right?  Well you’d think that’d be the least stressful part of my being back.  Not so much.  First off Shannan and I were supposed to go visit a friend in Hong Kong.  I was really excited about this, but after trying to book tickets FOUR times and failing I gave up.  I took it as a sign that Hong Kong is not meant to happen this time around.  Plus it’s a long fight and not the cheapest trip, so then we said okay we’ll do Goa, India.  Short flight, cheap and beaches — woo hoo!  Jordan landed us an awesome flight and hotel deal, so yay.  The problem is landing an Indian tourist visa.  Holy hell … the online application is a pain.  The system kept crashing (could be my internet since I’ve been having trouble with it ever since I got back).  Long story short after several tries I submitted my online visa app only to have it rejected.  I took today off to go directly to embassy to get it worked out.  Luckily, I called first and was warned my visa might take 7 working days, which means I’d miss my flight (it’s on Saturday).  So, after several hours (I kid you not) of doing the online process thing again, I resubmitted my visa app.

There’s no telling if I’ll actually get approved this time around, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  Looking at the pic of my passport I uploaded the first time around I see that it’s blurry, so that might have had something to do with rejection (and I can’t seem to get through to anyone who knows why it was rejected).  We shall see.  I’m either headed to Goa on Saturday, or drowning in my tears here in Al Ain.  I’ll let you know how it all ended up.  Lesson learned:  don’t apply for this visa within the same week of flying out; make sure you have ample time to work out any kinks!

While all this is going on Joe and I are also planning our Christmas trip.  Looks like we’ll end up somewhere in Scandinavia, but who knows that could change as well.  We’ve some ideas, but it’ll all depend on what flights we can nab.  South Africa is on the table as well, but so far that’s a really expensive flight for Joe.  Either way I’m seeing my man in December!

Back in the U.S.part of my life, Joe and Kaylene are working on getting the house ready to sell. So much is going on at the same time … may it all work itself out to a debt-free, stress-free future for Joe and me — 2017 is the year we’ll both end up full time on the same continent together. woo hoo!  Until then, let’s make these last four 2016 months count.

And that’s about it on my end for now.  Next time I’ll post it’ll either be about Goa or me possibly goin insane — or both.

Say Cheese!

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As always lots of photo opps on the weekend.  Two weeks ago some friends and I took off for a weekend Amsterdam adventure, where they surprised me with a bachelorette party.  It started off classy with a mimosa brunch they cooked up in our cozy flat, while Ian, Charlotte and I sipped coffee at a local pub. Ian was in on the secret but Charlotte was as surprised as me when we got back because it was also her birthday weekend — so the brunch was in her honor as well.   It ended with a scavenger hunt in the red light district — bachelorette paraphernalia and all.  I didn’t have a last-days-of-single party the first time I married, so this one totally made up for it.  I bet I was the oldest bachelorette out there, but that’s okay because I had just as much fun as all the other ‘stag’ and ‘hen’ stars whooping it up in the alleyways and pubs.

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Since it’s wise I don’t show off my bachelorette attire here, I’m just going to post a pic of the roses Jordan’s friend Michal blessed us with.

It was a great weekend, and I wish I could write more about all the fun we had, but some memories are just meant to be kept amongst friends.  I also wish I could write more about Amsterdam because it’s a wonderful city, but two days there isn’t enough to explore all of its wonders.  That’s okay because I plan on visiting again next summer.

Here’s just a few photos to show you some of what we did.  I’ll do the city justice next summer.

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The flight to Amsterdam had its own adventures as well.  If you’re ever in an overnight layover in Prague, look for the kids play house.  It has padded flooring, so you can crawl up in there and attempt a nap (although airport noise gets in the way).

Last weekend Shannan and I spent time with Suzanne in Abu Dhabi.  Sadly, she is moving back home in a few weeks, so we’re getting in as much Suzanne time as we can.  We’ll be there for the next two weekends and 4th of July festivities, and then I’ll have to say good bye to one of my close friends here.  It’s all good, I totally plan on visiting her back home when I get the chance, but it’s still one of the disadvantages of living here.  We all go home eventually, so goodbyes happen.  It’s tough, and I can’t imagine my Abu Dhabi weekends without Suzanne.

As for what we did this weekend, we hung out at the pool, which was so much nicer than expected.  We didn’t think we’d last long because of the heat and our inability to drink water at the pool (it’s Ramadan and illegal to eat or drink in public during daylight hours — I’ll write more about Ramadan in another post).  BUT, the pool water was chilled, so it was refreshing.  Thanks to whomever decided to treat residents to this lovely oasis!

Since we’re just a few weeks away from going home for the summer, I also wanted to buy some gifts at World Trade Center mall, where we also discovered The Hub, a new restaurant corner that includes a latin restaurant we fell in love with.  It’s not cheap, but it’s a welcome surprise for hungry, thirsty shoppers.  I totally recommend you check it out if you’re ever in that corner of the world.

And now it’s time for me to jump in the shower and get ready for work.  We’re down to our last few weeks, so before you know it I’ll be posting from Arizona again.  Until then Ramadam Kareem to my muslim friends, and whoop whoop it’s almost School’s Out to my UAE teacher friends!

Babes in Beirutland

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Thanks to the Islamic holiday Isra and Mi’raj we had a long weekend, so Haneefa and I decided to fly off to Beirut instead of hanging out on the couch Netflix binging.    I’m so glad we did.  Oh my goodness I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful, even though friends who have been have bragged about it.

Other than news of the civil war and current security warnings, I really didn’t know much about Lebanon — except that I have yet to meet a Lebanese I don’t like.    Everyone we met was friendly and curious about us.  It’s nice to have strangers greet you with “Welcome!  Welcome very much.”  Heck, we even got a few marriage proposals, and one man stopped traffic just so we could cross the street — can’t beat that.

While there is definitely a military presence, and it might be a little jarring at first, you eventually forget they’re there — and, quite frankly, I’d rather have too much protection than not enough.  It’s a shame this country’s uglies take center stage because it’s an amazing place to visit and it deserves — needs — our tourism dollars.  But, of course, until terrorism simmers the eff out it’s a vacation many will put on hold, and while I would totally go back, I can’t blame anyone for heeding security warnings.

This is the second country I’ve visited that borders Syria, and it saddens me even more to think what those people are going through.  In this area there is so much beauty, history, ruins from the dawn of time, culture, layers of life, and to think of it being raped and dismembered by ignorance and hatred is an unimaginable miscarriage of humanity — not only to Syrians, but to all of us.  This is where much of what we know as civilization was born.  Visiting Lebanon — Beirut in particular — you see remnants of life long before now, life now, and the scars of violence.  On the bright side, it seems brutality has not yet broken the people’s zest for life. I hope it is the same for Syrians, or that one day soon it will be.

But enough of my thoughts on something I know so little about.  On to the best part of this post … the pictures.  Oh how I wish they could do the trip justice, but they give you an idea of why the locals manage to stay so darned spirited.

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Love this picture.  That flag may be wet and tattered thanks to the ocean’s constant battering, but it’s still proud and it’s still snapping back.

Beirut’s corniche is 10 kilometers of a walker’s (or runner’s) paradise.

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We pretty much just enjoyed the corniche and our hotel pool the first night.

I mean who wouldn’t enjoy that?!  Lots of Roman influence here, and, well, it’s also close to Cyprus.

Second day we hired a driver who took us to Jeita Grotto, Our Lady of Lebanon and Byblos.

These pictures were taken off of the Internet since we couldn’t take our cameras inside.  We rode a gondola to the upper cave to walk through its massive interior, and then we were treated to a boat ride in its lower cave.

My pics of Jeita Grotto’s exterior

It was pouring down rain when we got there, but when it was our turn to stroll through the little park area it was beautiful weather.  It’s like the Gods wanted us to enjoy this.

 

Next up was a ride on the telepherique — thanks to Haneefa I can’t type this without humming it to the tune of super freak — up to the Lady of Lebanon.   This is something that is not to be missed.

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At the tippy top you get to meet the gracious Lady of Lebanon.  Muslims and Christians alike visit here, and regardless of what you believe it’s a good place to remind you that there is still holiness in our world.

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Before I move on to our next stop, let’s just take a moment to appreciate this view.  Awesomeness, yes!

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And last, but OMG not least, was our trip to Byblos, which is a thriving city next to the ruins of an ancient Phoenician city, which also holds gifts from many other civilizations. It’s named after the bible because bible means book of Papyrus, and this place just so happens to be directly linked to the Phoenician alphabet — pretty nifty stuff for someone who loves words to see.

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And some random shots for you

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Of course there’s so much more I could share, but this post is long enough.  I’m so thankful I got visit this boisterous beauty, and I hope some of you will one day do the same.

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Beirut in the distance as seen from the ruins of ancient Byblos.  I kind of like that the present looks ghostly from the past’s perspective.

p.s. Selfie shots are thanks to Haneefa.

 

Summer is coming…

I’m a little under the weather, so I spent a good chunk of the weekend watching Game of Thrones reruns with Shannan.  I also booked a weekend trip with Haneefa — will tell you all about it in May — started looking up potential spots for Michelle’s and my next big trip (next school year), caught up with some friends not living in the UAE, and I ordered some things for our big family event this summer.  It’s been a weekend of reminiscing and planning.

In three months I’ll be in a beautiful cabin in Show Low, Arizona with the people I love, celebrating the best of what my family has become.  It’s crazy how many different corners of the world I find myself in throughout the year, and I still cannot believe how lucky I am.

That said, of course, I have plenty of moments where I’m feeling anything but lucky.  Take for example right now, I’m afraid to eat because my stomach is waging its own war, and, sadly, despite its refusal to house food the scale is also rebelling because she just won’t deduct the pounds.  What The Fat?

I guess if I’m going to feel crappy it’s a good weekend to do so since it’s dusty, humid and windy out there, but I’d rather be writing about playing at the beach or going to the gym or hanging out at the pool.  Inshallah I’ll do that next weekend.

But since I’m in a whiny mood, I can share some of  things I find not lucky  — especially since I’ve goofed around on Internet more than usual and scanned through the latest batch of “we’re coming in August” Facebook posts.   So, for the upcoming newbies and any of you who are tired of my “damn I’m lucky (but seriously I am!)” posts here’s some of my less pollyanna stuff to deal with:

  • Cultural differences and language barriers sometimes bring up frustrating moments at work.  At the end of the day we all want to do the right thing, but sometimes our version of that clashes, and while it’s all part of the deal, sometimes I just want to yell “Puhlease can you just let me do it this way.”  I’m not saying I’m right, just saying sometimes I long for the days where I’m on the same page and alphabet as everyone else.
  • Ditto for getting stuff done outside of work.  Sometimes my face and arms hurt from gesticulating and enunciating so much.  Hahaha those might be the only toned muscles in my body.
  • Shaky paradigms — things change while at the same time some not so much.  It gets a little confusing sometimes.  But isn’t that a worldwide complaint right now?  Everything is changing while at the same time some of our old uglies are popping right back up again.  It’s a frantic Whack A Mole game, and I’m hoping we all come out winners in the end.

And, that’s all I’ve got for now.  Back to the bright side of things:   there’s always the next vacation to plan for!  Or, the next good thing — at work or play — to look forward to.  The good still outweighs the bad.  And…

Game of Thrones Season 6 AND Summer vacay is coming!  While I will sooooo miss my girls this year when they graduate, I’m also sooo looking forward to playing at home with my loved ones.  (not to mention all the fun stuff planned here for the next three months — you’ll never see or hear me complain about being bored).

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