Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Cheer and The New Year

Well we made it through our first Dubai Christmas.  When you are an expat and so far away from home what do you do on Christmas Day?  Brunch!  E and I hightailed it to the Atlantis to drink bubbly and feast of the magnificent spread.  We donned Santa hats and dined by the gorgeous Atlantis pool.  There was even a cotton candy machine, which was my go to for dessert.  It really was lovely and we had lots of fun. BUT I missed the cold, grey skies of the midwest, the fire crackling, and the family all together.  As much as we tried to mask the day in opulent fun it just was not the same as home.

My Hollywood finish, my prince
found me to cross the finish
line with me!
Now we are looking towards the New Year.  Currently we are planning to stay in Abu Dhabi and attend the Coldplay concert after a few days down on the island that E works on.  But we all know what comes with the new year...resolutions.  I know everyone says that they do not believe in them but we all still make them so often just to be broken.  In past blogs I have discussed E's health kick and it has jump started my running, most recently completing a half marathon.  So I thought that I am going to make a resolution that I can work towards everyday.  A mileage goal.  E brought up the thought of running 1000k in the year, which would be about 621 miles, which is only 1.7 miles per day.  That's less than 20 minutes of running.  Completely doable, so I am going to do it.  So from here and there you may be reading about some milage updates.  Here's to keep resolutions!!

What's your New Years Resolution?


Saturday, December 10, 2011

To Home and Back...Home

Back home in Iowa with my brother and his lovely lady!
And we are back in action.  E and I made our way to the states for Turkey day and got some much needed family time along with my two most important creature comforts: chipotle and target.  Yepp, those are the two things that I miss the most (barring family and friends obvi!).  My biggest fear at the end of the trip was that I would not want to return back to the concrete jungle of Dubai.  But after staying with two lovely ladies and enjoying their homes I was anxious to get back and attempt to "homify" our apartment.


First order of business was to assemble Christmas in our Middle East apartment.  I must admit though, and my last roomie will attest, I tend to be a bit of a grinch when it comes to decorating.  I think that is because I logged so many hours at my last job that I really never even got to properly celebrate Christmas or even be home, but not this year.  We went to the local grocery store/Walmart type outlet and scooped up a 4 foot fakie and some plastic ornaments.  The biggest obstacle was to find lights, a tree skirt, and a topper.  I can tell you a week later we now have outdoor icle lights draping our tree (and E negotiated 60% off of those bad boys so we made them work!), a tree skirt that was meant for a table cloth but some scissors and I got to work and viola, and still no topper but two little love birds are perched up there.  It is a bit eclectic and the lights are practically electric that I do believe planes have been distracted by them flying over, but we are celebrating darn it.  Today I scooped up some yummy candles and E bought pine scented air freshener, which we dowsed our tree in to make it a bit more authentic.  We are two crafty kids.

A view from JBR beach, it looks like a postcard!
I have hit my 6 month anniversary and Dubai is starting to be more like a home to me.  I cannot really claim myself as a newbie any longer.  Dubai has some absolutely amazing things to offer, but one thing it is truly lacking is a sense of community. Yesterday E and I participated in the Dubai Creek Striders Half Marathon and I felt that community a bit more.  Races always seem like a place were there is a kinship and bond amongst strangers.  It was a huge feat for me and it was nice to run along 1500 people, watch the sun rise of the Burj Dubai, and run through the souks of old town Dubai.   I never, ever thought, I would run a half marathon, but not only did I complete it but ran the entire way!  That was really my goal.  I am  fighting some soreness today, definitely proud of us, but not running (ha!) out to do another one any time soon.

So we have gone home and come back home in the last few weeks.  How nice it is to have two homes and appreciate living life in such opposite spectrums.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Something bizarre just happened. I am sitting at the beach reading, "Is everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" By Mindy Kaling and I stopped on the word "favorite," and I paused. I thought to myself, "that's not spelled right?!" I have become so Britishly acclimated that I was thinking it should be"favourite." It's happening! It's official the Brits have invaded my vernacular!

I know I have been on hiatus but vow to be back soon, with some colourful tales.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Our Weekend Playground

Just about two and a half hours outside of the concrete jungle of Dubai lies Sir Bani Yas Island, E’s second home.  He works on this island four days a week on different development projects.  We had a long weekend and he had to log some OT so we hopped in the car, took a 30 minute boat and Viola we are in a whole new world.  On the way down I was getting a bit snarky and after a quick stop for sustenance I was feeling much better.  E told me that I was “emotionally diabetic, when my blood sugar runs low, my emotions run high!”  Quite a clever boy that one, but goodness me I do get in a mood when I am hungry.  I might not even know that I am hungry but E will just start throwing granola bars all me when I get cranky.  

I digress…  According to E this island belongs to one of the Sheikhs and he decided to make it his personal playground.  There is mountain biking, kayaking, game drives (cheetahs, giraffes, and other wild animals included!), and archery.  When I put it like that it sounds like summer camp for adults, but heck I loved camp so sign me up, but there better be smores!!

E took us to his digs.  They call it The Hilton.  Let me tell you Paris would not be claiming this one, but it has charm.  I think it is made out of plywood.  He lives in a one room apartment with a futon, desk, and table.  There is a small bathroom as well.  And the shower is miniscule.  I mean have you ever shaved your legs in a phone booth?  E’s shower might be just slightly smaller than that and it is not an easy feat.

This weekend is shaping up to be a perfect Hollywood Ending.  We have a game drive scheduled on Monday morning to go see the lions, tigers, and bears...oh my!  Just kidding but hoping to see the cheetahs and giraffes, they are my favorite.  Planning to get some mountain biking in too, but I have not been on a bike since freshman year when I feel off in the middle of the quad and everyone laughed at me.  Suppressed memories.  Well I will let you know if is the saying "just like riding a bike" really is true.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

These Are The Days Of Our Lives

Today E dropped financial papers on my lap and requested that I mail them for him tomorrow.  I took a glance at them and noticed that my name was written on them.  On closer inspection I found that he had named me beneficiary.

"Babe, you made me your beneficiary?  That's nice."

"Yeah is just like getting engaged."

"No babe, no its not."

Another Men are From Mars moment?  Yes, I think that's what I will chalk this one up to.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Deep Thoughts by Laura Nash

So I have a lot of aspirations and sad to say my hopes were dashed the other day with this "Ah-Ha" moment:

(me out shouting...completely at random to my roommate):

"D!  Do you know why I can never be a professional blogger?"

He startled by my obscenely loud volume looks up from his iPad....

"Because all these girls take pictures of themselves in these amazing outfits and then post them and that's all they have to do that day.  So what do they do with the rest of their time?  If that's all I had on my plate I would eat copious amounts of junk food, shop till I run out of money, and then I will be broke!  Which means I would no longer have the ability to purchase said outfits and not be able to fit in the clothes to take pictures in...and my blogging career would be over before it started."

He then went back to his iPad...

Therefore I salute you Kendi, Jessie, Blaire and all of you lovely ladies out there who have conquered this vicious cycle, because I am just sitting here scratching my head.

*editors note: I know these brilliant ladies all have thriving careers and their blogs are just a part of them, but I thought my little outburst was rather comical, here's to my blogging career!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Very Dubai Birthday

You can see how much fun we are all having....
yes those are birds on my dress.
One of the things that I have noticed amongst fellow expats is that it is a very open community.  To some degree it is a all for one mentality and people are more open than you would find back in the states or the UK.  I recently celebrated my birthday and I must say I really felt like I had a little family out here in Dubai.  We did a classic Dubai ritual and hightailed out to a brunch.  Now, I have not been exposed to the world of brunching before but out here every friday, in every hotel, it is an all you can eat, all you can drink frenzy, dressed up in your finest duds and with 100 of your closest friends.  Well you are not all friends at the start but by the end every one is pretty much your bestie.  We had a group of 15 and I must say it was an absolute blast. 

As for the day of my Birthday my precious E out did himself.  He made dinner reservations and picked me up at 8:00, as he was coming back from the island a day early than usual to celebrate (he better have!).  We hailed a cab and I rode in suspense as he was completely mum on our final destination.  About 20 minutes later we pulled up to The Fairmont Hotel and had an amazing dinner at Spectrum on One, fit with a Happy Birthday serenade by a very off key Philipino and Indian wait staff.  

Then we hit up ye ole Cavalli Club, which is touted as the place to go in Dubai.  The stairway to the club was covered in enough purple velvet and rhinestones to make one vomit, but hey that's the Arab way.  Walking into the main room the place was decked out with crystal chandleries amongst the purple back drop and it was quite the people watching scene.  I think I saw Marilyn Monroe!  We ordered the most expensive martinis of our lives, enjoyed the the good company and called it a night.  It was absolutely perfect mix of the Dubai scene and spending time with my amazing boy.  I woke up the next morning wishing to relive it all.

It truly was a great Birthday and I am so grateful for this experience, the opportunities to come, and all the people I have met.

I just this this is a keeper, I have my
birthday girl badge on!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My First Haircut

Dubai is a land of delivery.  Any food under the sun will be brought to your door in 45 minutes or less.  Maids can be hired and will show up knocking on your door step to deliver you a clean house.  You need a cup of sugar, we do not knock on the our neighbor's door, no we call the local grocery store to run us up sack of sugar.  Last week I had my most favorite delivery yet...a haircut.  I have been putting it off for a good six months, scared to try anyone new.  The stigma over here is that where ever you show up they will give you the same cookie cutter haircut the last five girls had.  I was passed a number with good recommendations made the call or text rather (Everything over here is also often done by text) and the response was would you like to come to the salon or me come to your house?  I was a bit puzzled, do I want her to come to my house?  That seems a bit of a project, the house is not visitor ready as the maid is not scheduled till the next weekend (gosh could I be anymore spoiled) but I thought why not come on over.

The next day at 7:00 pm on the dot there she was, my pink haired, UK sprite of a hair dresser knocking on my door to trim my tresses.  It was a no frills process as I washed my own hair, she snipped away and viola, 45 minutes later I had a much shorter, new do!  It is a great deal for these girls or guys, because think how low their overheads are and she just got to walk away from the hairy mess.  I hoovered up a good 4-5 inches of my red locks and admired the ease of and the convenience my new haircut and thought how great is life in Dubai!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Drinking in Caves

Through the Vineyards we go!

 Switzerland Part II…Montreux is an amazing, beautiful place.  I cannot really even do it justice with many words.  All I will say is that there are vineyards all along the coast, (is it still a coast if it is a lake, i.e. Lake Geneva?), and we hiked from small village to village literally trolling through vineyards visiting Caveuxs a long the way.  What is a Caveux you ask?  They are these amazing little jems.  And inside these little dungeons  they store and serve all of the local wines that the vineyards surrounding them produce.  What an excellent idea, smart little Swiss!  We enjoyed our fair share of reds…and whites…and everything in between.  And there was a castle.  A fairytale princess castle.  Just look at the pictures and promise you will go someday?
Just pretty

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Grüezi from the Alps

See the cows in the background!?
Water. Bread. Apricots. Cheese. Orange. Banana. Gummy Bears. Wine.  Those were the lucky items that were selected to be in our hiking bag, which I must mention in our packing haste we forgot to pack a backpack and so I was lucky enough to have a reason to buy a new bag!  E and I were bound and determined to get a solid day of hiking the Swiss Alps in on our four day journey.  Typically we are not the most blessed when it comes to good weather, so much so that on everyone of our holidays we have purchase umbrellas: Harry, Lloyd, and Elvira (R.I.P everyone of them, their dollar values didn't give them much more than a 1 trip shelf life).  But in Interlaken we could not have asked for any better weather, a few clouds spotted the clear brilliant blue sky, the grass was greener than I have ever seen and the cow bells were the perfect cacophony of background noise.

Quarter of the way, feeling confident, notice the outfit
change?  We had lots of layers on, the key to hiking
success, oh and always bring a scarf :)
We started off in very high spirits in Grindlewald, the map said that it would take us 4 hours and 40 minutes to reach our destination, Mannlichen, at the tippy top of the mountain we were on with the Eiger, Monck, and Jungfrau just in the distance.  We hiked along and chatted at the cows and the goats and even the butterflies too!  About half an hour into the hike I was puzzled that we had not seen any other hikers on the trail, but we pressed on.  An hour into it I realized why we were the only ones on the trail, I am in pretty good shape, ran a 10k about three weeks before, but by this point I was about ready to get on all fours and climb up this beastly mountain.  It was like going on the stair master at level 37 for 2.5 hours.  I looked up at the cable cars running above us with envy.  But there was no other decision but up and we pressed on.

Half way point!
Finally we reached....the half way point.  I think my heavy breathing, lack of conversation, and my obvious fatigue convinced E that we could ride the cable car up the rest of the way.  I was incredibly grateful, but we paid for it!  Switzerland is such a gorgeous place but oh so expensive, it was $33 for the two of us to rest our tired selves in the cute cable car for our 20 minute ride to the top.  It was absolutely stunning and of course the sore calves and shaking quads were well worth it.  We had a celebratory beer, some fruit, bread, and gummies and appreciated the breathtaking
(literally!) back drop.

This was just one day of our amazing journey, check back in for Switzerland Part 2.  On a side note, I miss all my family and friends back home and love you all so much!!

Our at the top celebration!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Going once, Going twice, SOLD!

So one of the many quirks of the UAE is not just that there is a maserati, porsche, or ferrari around every corner but what is on the car that is unique.  In the UAE the locals do not only show their status with the car they drive but rather the number on their license plates.  The elite have the lowest of low numbers on their exotic sports cars and yesterday the license plate auction took place.  The exciting auction all went down at the illustrious Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi where locals spent hundreds, thousands, of dirhams on sentimental license plate numbers.

In The National this morning there was an article that discussed this thrilling event.  One gentleman spent 120,000 AED to get the same number he has had since he was 17.  That is a little less than $33,000.  This is an imperative event in the Emirati world, one gentleman in the article said, "With a unique three-digit number, everything changes.  You get special treatment, people look at you differently. You are treated like you are something big."  Back in 2008 a man spent $14.3 million for Abu Dhabi's plate number "1."  I must mention that the proceeds do go to a local charity here in the UAE to benefit car accident victims.

This got me thinking, do we have practices like this back in the states?  Or is this just something unique to the Middle East.  I know people are into comic books, art collections, stamps, spoons, elephants, scarves!  But license plates?  What sort of expendable status symbols do we spend exorbidant amounts of money on?  I am scratching my head on this one, but I must admit when we are out tooling around I am always checking out the plates just to see how low our highway neighbors will go.  


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Piece of Paradise

Unawatuna Beach, Slice of Heaven
So, I do not know if you were aware of this BUT did you know that you can get sunburned in, yes in, your belly button?!  Because my friends that was a little present that Sri Lanka sent me home with, along with about 35 bug bites, yes I counted.  I told my mom about that tonight and she is now convinced that I have Malaria and after my latest google search I just found out that Sri Lanka is a "Malaria Hot Spot." Let's all go!  But really we all should it is an absolutely amazing place.

The race was afoot and of course
E & I won!!!
The beaches where smooth and the sand felt nice on our feet as we ran like Pamela Anderson and the Hoff down the beach.  Well, actually we did not run at all, but E did make me perform his 8 minute workout on the beach, in the sand, and oh yes the sand was everywhere, but at least some fitness was had, even if it was done begrudgingly.  We rode around in Tuk Tuks, ate amazing sea food, and even took in a Cricket Match of two of the best teams in the world, Sri Lanka and Australia.

Go Sri Lanka!  Smells like Team
It was a quick weekend, we flew in spent three days in this beautiful open air hotel called, Tharpobon.  The staff was welcoming and smiling, by the end we had all made friends.  It was so relaxing, we talked about returning some day very soon.  But I will be sure to throw some zinc in my delicate little belly button next time.  

Saturday, August 27, 2011

New Town, New Hobby

Alright, clearly I have fallen off the blogging bandwagon since I have become gainfully employed, but I will not let that detour me.  As I have mentioned I have been working to find a balance here in my new dubai life.  A big part of my focus has been directed to and focused on healthy living.  I tend to lack major will power when it comes to the food part.  I do a stand up job about going to the gym but when I get home at night often times my thoughts go to yummy, delicious forbidden foods!  I have to say since being in Dubai I have yet to really have a good hamburger and oh my goodness how I miss Chipotle, it was the last meal I had before I got on the plane courtesy of my thoughtful mother!  And needless to say In & Out has yet to expand to the far East.  So I have resorted to something I really did back in Phoenix, I cook!

It is so nice to have someone to share a meal with every night.  E and I go through different blogs collecting recipes each week, then we drag our feet to the grocery store, something neither of us like to do, but once the shopping is complete I feel so productive.  I have made beef and black bean tacos, gasztpacho,  varieties of stir fry, and countless different versions of quinoa.  And do you know what, I actually like to cook and I am not too bad at it either.  You can check with E and J, they are my references.

So my goal is to continue gymming it up, continue grocery shopping, and whipping up healthiness and hoping that I will see the results and feel better.  Do you have any healthy recipes to share?  I would love to hear all about them.

On a side note Ramadan is coming to a close, which means it is Eid, which means we get two days off (E gets the whole week, but who is comparing?!), which means we are going on a trip.  We are headed to Sri Lanka to enjoy the beach and hopefully see some elephants.  Sand and Elephants, perfect combination.  

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Just like home

It has taken me a few weeks to settle into the old routine.  You know what I mean, starting a new job, one must find the delicate balance of working out, grocery shopping, cooking, quality time with your loved one and over all when am I going to squeeze in the latest episode of the bachelor pad?  Lucky for me I have found a way to watch all my deliciously juicy reality TV and I do not have to suffer just because I live in Dubai, yes my friends I can even keep up with Teen Mom.

As I have mentioned before I am the only American in the office, the rest are from the UK.  We have constant battles on how to pronounces words like "oregano," "aluminum," and "Tunisia."  And mostly it is 8-1 but it is all in good fun.  I do miss the old days at ERAC with the inappropriate humor, the innuendoes, and the crazy customers that always brought on the laughs.  But the other day my office mate reminded me that most offices filled with 20 and 30 somethings all think alike, which ever side of the pond you come from.

In our office we only have one bathroom and it is reserved for the ladies of the group.  The men must use the public one in the tower, apparently where there is "wee" (their word not mine) all over the floor.  So I was getting ready to set out and wanted to make a quick pit stop before my meeting and out of the corner of my eye I saw my office mate moving towards the door.  So in the thought of not wanting to wait in line I simply asked, "Hey are you going to the bathroom?"  She tentatively answered, "yes....."  And the girl across from me shouted (in a precious English accent), "You just caught her trying to have a sneaky poo!"  I busted out in laughter, tears rolling down my eyes, and belly laughed until my stomach hurt.  It reminded me of the old ERAC days when we used to crack up hourly.  And in that moment I felt less homesick and more grounded.  The little things like that make this place start to feel more like home.  

Friday, August 5, 2011

Help Save a Heart

In the spirit of Ramadan Eric and I went on a little trip this morning down to Wafi to meet up with Kim and her husband before they went to church.  Earlier in the week on his commute in to Abu Dhabi Eric heard Kim's story:  Her mother is living in the Philippines and does not have any insurance or money to afford the necessary doctors and treatment.  She has severe heart problems and desperately in need to medical attention.  She has lost her left leg due to blood clots and they are working quickly to raise enough funds to save her right leg which is now in danger.  Kim is raising money to help her mother by selling cupcakes.

The meeting spot was arranged last night over the phone and while working out the details  Kim slipped in  that she had seen Eric's blog     and that she would even make gluten free cupcakes if he preferred it.  I thought that was so thoughtful, this is a girl who really has heart.  Meeting her today I was further impressed by her positivity that she exudes and her strength.  I cannot imagine watching any loved one be in such pain.   They have raised 8,000 AED so far for her mother's treatment.

Don't they look delicious?!  She even personalized them :)
On the way back home I was so excited that I had a dozen cupcakes on my lap and could not wait to dig in.  I had no idea what to expect when we cut the ribbon off and lifted the lid, but they were a perfect representation of Kim.  You could tell they were made with love.

If you want to help Kim she has a website you can visit to find out more information:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ramadan Kareem!

Today is the day that all UAE residents hold near and dear to their heart.  The start of Ramadan.  Here is my very novice approach to the subject, glistened from those around me.  There is a moon committee that is some where down in the deserts of Saudi Arabia, in my mind it is a group of men who rotate shifts, taking turns, standing the in middle of the desert at all hours gazing into the sky, waiting for the new moon.  I am sure it is much more scientific (or maybe not?) than that but I think it makes it all the more magical.  Once they glimpse the new moon Ramadan is "called," which means fasting when from just after sunrise to sunset.  Then If-tar occurs every night which is breaking of the fast, and those who are participating eat an absolutely splendid spread, celebrate into the wee hours of the night, go to bed and do it all over again, for thirty days.  The fasting bans any and all food and drink substances, including water, or chewing gum.  If you are a non muslim and you are not participating you cannot be caught eating or drinking in public, you must partake of this behind a black curtain so not to be seen.  This is serious stuff too!  If you are caught sneaking even a drink of water or chewing gum in the public eye, you can be fined and possibly jailed.

Can you imagine the dedication this all takes?  It is so those who partake remember the poor and give more back.  I learned in my office the other day that if you give to the poor during Ramadan it is looked at giving 700 times greater than any other time of the year.  As I said this is my take on the whole subject, I did not do any research, but we are just on the first day and I am sure I have much to learn over the next 29 days.  

I know this is a bit more of a serious blog, but really I think it is interesting to learn about the culture over here.  This is way I have stepped out of my comfort zone to experience and see another view point, to take part to have a greater understanding.  One another note I am just about a week away from getting my official visa.  My medical records have gone through and that is yet another interesting experience that we will get into next time.  But the sun has gone down now and boy am I thirsty... 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Embracing It

 A very Happy Birthday to my Amazing and Beautiful Mother, wish I could be there to celebrate with you!  It is such a special day for such an incredible woman.  She is embracing her 60th year with grace, poise, and a lot of class.  Thank you for being such an incredible role model and mother and for always being so supportive.  I love you.  ~LB
Cheers to many more happy years....

Looking amazing all dressed up 

I love you and miss you so much!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sorry about the Sari

So I think this falls under the "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus," chapter.  I have known that we are going to a birthday party this weekend for about 6 weeks.  E did his due diligence on that one and let me know and I put it in my calendar, thus making it an official event.  He rsvp for us both and it sounds to be a grand soiree.  So you can imagine my surprise this morning as I try to blink the sleep from my eyes when has casually drops this minute detail, "Oh yeah I ran into N yesterday and he told me that the party has an Indian theme."

Me: "what....?"
E: "Yeah, Indian theme."
Me: "So what would have happened if you did not run into Nick yesterday?"
E: "I guess we would have shown up in normal clothes..."

This is what I came up
with, long skirt, and one of
my infamous scarves comes
to the rescue.
I groaned an rolled over.  I know this is not a huge deal but I am new here, trying to make friends, and this is a 30th birthday party filled with E's co-workers so I need to look nice.

I padded out to the living room where E was pulling up the invitation, that he rsvp to just weeks before, and there are three lovely paragraphs setting the tone for the night, describing candle lit setting, delectable indian food, and that girls should wear light and colorful clothing fitting with India influences.

Oh boys, they just do not understand the need fro the right outfit.  I am sure it will be a beautiful night and I will try to snap some pictures of what I come up with.  How has a similar situation played out in your relationship?  I would love to hear your little men are from Mars anecdotes!  But for now I am  sorry I have to run, time to scrape together a Sari.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Nepal is Cool. Where is that Again?

So it is pretty easy to distinguish that I am not a world traveler, I did not ever do well in geography, and I do not speak in any other language but good old American.  I do realize that I have been doing a lot more traveling as of recent but before I met E, I had literally only been out of the country once (not counting weekend trips to Rocky Point, Me-he-co).  So when Nepal was brought up I acted like, "oh yeah Nepal, I have been wanting to go there forever, so cool,"  but what I was really thinking is really "where in the world Carmen San Diego is Nepal?"  So I googled, did some research, packed up my Vera Bradley tote and we hit the road.

What a cool picture right?
E took that one...
When we landed I knew it was going to be poor, because TOMs shoes have been there to launch their new eyeware campaign, but I was not expecting people living in huts on the side of the road, garbage piled up, and cows sleeping in the streets poor.  It was definitely an eye opener.  Lucky for me, we stayed in some really nice accommodations up in the base of the mountains at Gokarna Resort.

So I do not know if you have to google Nepal, but it is really know for its outdoor extreme activities, like trekking, bungee jumping, and white water rafting.  Since there were no extra strength, extra long rubber bands or rapids at Gokarna, we settled on a nice little trek, that I think most would really call a hike, or it was rather slow, so maybe it could even be defined as a stroll in the woods.  We walked up to the front desk to book our hike and they handed E this little teeny tiny bottle and called it "medicine."  Eric pointed at me and said, "just don't tell her that."  At which point I immediately began to pay attention and started to ask questions.

"Medicine for what?"
"For the leeches Mam, it is rainy season."
"Are we going in water?"
"No Mam, they are in the mud."
"Namaste Mam."
(Namaste my ass I am not going where any leeches are...)

E got the death stare and then I remembered, I am in Nepal, it is cool, I can handle any of this let's hit the trails and if there are any issues we have our trusty guide, Amit.  So I  rubbed the medicine onto my legs, shoes, ankles, and then I double dipped for more, there will not be any little blood suckers on my precious limbs. (If you have read past posts you will remember that I have had encounters with these little buggers before)  So we set out of our rainy hike.

We walked out on the slippery golf course and up into the lower trails of the hills.  It was a misty morning and I was feeling quite sprite and happy after my yoga session so we walked and chatted with Amit, as he practiced his English.  About 10 minutes into the hike he stopped us and did a leech check.  Everyone came out with a clean bill of health and we continued on in hopes of spotting deer and monkeys.  Well I was hoping, E has a phobia with monkeys, but then again I have one with leeches so I told him to suck it up.

We saw this:

And this:
So we did not actually get any pics of monkeys
on the hike but this is from our room.

And here we are scared of the monkeys (I was just pretending but I think E was definitely ready to get out of there):

Hide and seek from the Monkeys and Leeches
After about an hour and a half we came back out onto the golf course.  It was time for the final test, we had been watching our feet closely and discarding leeches as they tried to attack, so last check was inside our shoes.  E took his shoes off left then right, no problems, clean bill of health.  Then Amit inspected his.  Then me, who had probably watched my feet the most diligently of the rest of the trekking team, removed my shoes...And I am sure you have already guessed it but I had one little creature on each little foot, having a nice big lunch.  Dis-gust-ing.  Really?  Only me...Namaste, you gross little leeches, namaste.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Snot rockets and Nepalese Innuendoes

I know I have been on a bit of a hiatus, but I really forgot how time consuming work is.  This past week I have found myself not able to fit the rest of my life in with work, but who wants to hear about that...The weekend before I joined the blessed working world E and I decided to fly off to Katmandu to find our inner chi.  I do not know if total enlightenment took place but something close to that.

Waking up to the Mountains and Monkeys
Flying into Nepal there was only one thing on E's mind, not what you are thinking, it was to detox and jump start his newest infatuation, a health kick.  He is working on the artful balance of eating well, working out, and drinking in moderation.  Being the ever supportive side kick, that means I get to suffer along side of him.  It is not that I am against the idea of health, but rather just find it, I do not know what, but just not always my focus.  So the first morning when the alarm clock went off at 0700 and he was up and at em I knew I was in a bit of trouble.  "Babe, get up, we have to get to yoga!"  I peered out of the covers, moaned, and shook my head no.  But by 7:30 I found myself in a hodgepodge gym sitting a top of an old yoga mat.

The Gokarna National Park
Now, I am no yogi.  I have done my fair share of downward dogs and sun salutations but really I am just not bendy.  Lucky for me all that was really required of me to succeed in this class was to have lungs.  We breathed in and out so many times that I became light headed and it definitely was not for over exertion as we literally sat there cross legged taking deep breaths in and out.  I think our Nepalese instructor was just practicing her English.  Counting in particular.  She randomly would do counts of 10, 16, and 20 but she was pretty emphatic about the counting process.  After I was completely seeing stars and happy to be in a seated position she really brought out the big guns.  Kleenex.  I thought maybe I was sniffling just a bit too loud but nope, she instructed all of us (and by all I mean the entire class of three, I guess no one else's boyfriend's found it necessary to get up at dawn with the monkeys) to blow our noses.  Odd?  Then she instructed us to place our index and middle fingers to our right nostril alternating with pushing our thumb to our left.  What was the result?  Morning snot rockets!  Bats were released from the cave left and right and the chi in my nose was happy, if there even is chi in my nose, (I am guessing not.)

A Hike Post Work out...more on that next time!
After my nasal cavity was successfully detoxed and our instructor thought was had really pushed our bodies into a heap of rigor she requested that we lay down on the mats and I knew right away it was time for my favorite form of exercise: Vinyasa.  For those of you out there that have not been to an Ashram, this is the part of yoga were you lie on a mat, doing absolutely nothing in a meditative state.  In the past when I have partaken in this ancient practice the room is usually dark and silent, but not so in Nepal my friends.  The fluorescent lights were a blaze and our teacher instructed us which body parts to relax all the way from the tips of our toes to the tops of our heads.  She then moved down to the eyebrows, eyelids, chin, and even teeth.  In her best english she would repeat the phrase three times: "Re-wax yo tweeeff...Re-wax yo tweeeff... Re-wax yo tweeeff..."  She continued chanting us down the front of our bodies.  After we relaxed our hips and earlier we had relaxed our upper thighs, there was only one place to go.  And she went there! "Re-wax yo gen-i-tals...Re-wax yo gen-i-tals... Re-wax yo gen-i-tals!"  I look over to let out a girlish giggle to E and what is he doing?  Sleeping mouth wide, snores escaping, looking very relaxed...Oh Nepal!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

This one is for the girls

So I know E and I are quasi new at this relationship thing, not in being in one but in the being together all the time kind of one.  We are used to being literally 8,312.7 miles apart, yepp googled that one in the past.  And so we are still nailing down some perimeters to our little relationship life.  In the past we did not talk everyday, check in, call before bed, but now to me, that is one of those things that needed to change since I took that big leap, not to mention a 15 hour flight with poor in-flight entertainment.

Boys will be boys and E did not really understand that this was something that needed to happen.  One night last week when he was on the island (as he typically is two nights a week), we got in a spat, and he wanted to avoid me grumbling at him at all costs, thus he attempted to make it a no call night.  As you can imagine, that was just not going to happen.  So girls will be girls and I called him, like a stalker, for about an hour while simultaneously and rapidly texting my girlfriends my frustration.  Finally after about 11 missed phone calls and one text to E's number my phone rings.  There was a flash of relief and then the grumblings were just intensified on my end.  We mumbled a few words back and forth, fake apologizing, attempting at the whole, "do not go to bed angry," mantra and hung up angry.

With the morning brought new light, I was not as mad, although still annoyed that he just did not get
"it" and on his end I am going to guess that he was a bit confused because he indeed did not get "it" (meaning why was his gf acting a little bit bananas over a phone call).  I went about my normal day we had a few sparse g-chats going back and forth, they were a little bit tense but fakingly lovey, both of us pretending not to be mad.  He was on the island another night, which was fine with me, a little space, some vino, and downloaded reality TV on my computer sounded like a blissful night.  I had received a call earlier in the day from J our other roommate informing me that he had forgotten his house key and would I be home around 7:30 to let him in the door?  Although, I will be right in the middle of Real Housewives of New York, I could, yes, get up and open the door for him.

So at 7:40 the doorbell rang.  I sauntered over to the door, in pj shorts (and no make-up its my off day from the bf!) and opened it up.  Just for the record this is the heaviest door know to man so I did not fling it open but opened it about a quarter of the way to let J handle the rest.  I struggled with the door for about 20 seconds waiting for J to pop in.  When he did not, I poked my un-mascaraed eyes out and low and behold....E was waiting right outside the door smiling.  The first romantic words out of his mouth, "You got punked."  Blissful, I have been waiting our whole relationship to hear these three precious words strung together.  I look at him shocked and say, "what the heck are you doing here, I look terrible."  And he responded, "I am here to take my pretty girl on a date..."  And that he did, he drove three hours to take me out, make me happy, what an incredible night, with an incredible guy.

This my friends is a little taste of A Hollywood Ending.  It is a little bit funny, a little bit off from reality, and it just sweeps you off your feet.     

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Team America does Muscat"

Airports out here like to make a grand entrance.  It is not like the states where one just walks down the
 hallway following a sign to checked baggage.  Here in the Middle East they prefer suspense, they want you to think, what is on the other side of that huge frosted door?  And in Muscat, it is a very exciting surprise.  As we walked up to the door it flew to the side revealing about 45 small Indian men gawking at the disembarking passengers.  What the heck?  Are we in India?  Do they know that many people flying into Oman tonight?  Can't be?  Collectively, as a group we just decided that must be what they like to do for fun on a Thursday night, not how I would like to spend my free time, but hey to each their own.  Towards the back our very hospitable host was easy to sigh as he stuck out like a sore thumb, looming over the small men, as he is rather tall and a very fit build, quite the opposite from the rest of the crowd.  We hopped in his Jeep and another weekend journey began.

The first main event of the trip was SCUBA for the boys and snorkeling for the girls.  Now, I am going to let you in on a little secret, I am not a fan of large bodies of water.  Really any bodies of water with living things in them.  When I was little I had somewhat of a traumatic experience, I was swimming at my aunt and uncles cabin, jumping in the water, splashing around, and low and behold I look down at my toe and there was a big fat leech wrapped around my second toe of my right foot.  I can still picture it now.  And it freaked me out!  Have not been quite the same since.  BUT I am embarking on all these new adventures so I decided I had to put my big girl pants on and suck it up.

Snoop on the left and Dre on the right, you see it don't you?
We arrived at the marina at a wee 7:30 and found our way to our boat.  After some safety tips and introductions we were off.  Now, you will never believe who our captain and first mate were, none other than Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre.  I kid you not.  They were feeling a bit surely that morning too as we literally raced across 5 foot swells bouncing up and down I was just not feeling at all "laid back," but rather sea sick.  The boys all suited up, clearly Scuba training had developed their sea legs because all of us that there left on the ship after they dove in felt pretty much terrible.  We mustered our way through our first little water adventure hoping that bobbing up and down in the water would be better than on the boat, it was but only slightly.  Finally we settled on laying out on the front of the boat, the Englishman in the group dubbed us a bunch of "girl's blouses," you ever heard that one?

Nothing cuter than a snorkeling  mask
After the boys emerged from the water and we had some sandwiches and water melon in calmer waters, we jetted off to another spot.  This second snorkeling adventure was much much better.  Our stomaches and nerves were settled and we explored all the under water offerings.  At one point one of the girls screamed because something had brushed her leg, we quickly realized it was merely a buoy which we dubbed "the rope monster."  We saw several schools of fish and even a long moray eel.  After that I felt accomplished and ready to go back to my sun bathing. 

The best part of the trip was the boat ride back.  The water was even choppier and now there were white capped waves that we were slicing through on the boat.  Dre and Snoop were having the time of their lives zipping along the coast, the boat trying to hurdle the waves.  They were blasting one of their favorite artists, Seal.  As "Crazy, " and "Kiss from a Rose," was the sound track of our trip back to the marina we all held on and nervously laughed as the boat took on each wave.   

As our British host said, "Team America Does Muscat."
The rest of our weekend was focused on our very lovely host and his birthday.  We went out to a mexican restaurant where we had the most delicious strawberry margaritas and our Omani's knew how to keep those flowing, so it was easily a good time had by all.  The next morning we went to the most beautiful hotel in Muscat called the Chedi.  Our host had arranged for breakfast for the 6 of us in the private dinning room.  The spread of food was never ending, there was fruit platters, homemade preserves, breads, pastries, meats and cheeses, and this all came out before we even ordered our meals.  After we finished off our lovely breakfast we felt that we were definitely swim suit ready and headed out to the pools.  The grounds were perfectly manicured and the palm trees lined the walk ways.  It was one of the most  gorgeous resorts I had ever seen.  We finished off the fine weekend lounging around the infinity pool over looking the Gulf of Oman, sipping Corona's and relaxing in good company. 

Me and E, at The Chedi
As I look back of the past five weeks I cannot begin to count the ways in which I feel so lucky and blessed to have this opportunity.  In back to back weekends I got to explore two different cities in two different countries.  My horizons are expanding even more quickly than I thought they would.  I am learning about different cultures, tasting different foods, sipping a variety of wine and spirits, and meeting so many new and lovely people.  At different points in my life (college in Colorado, post college in Arizona, now in the UAE), I have stepped back, looked around at my surroundings and really been proud of myself that I pushed my limits.  Not only have I explored beyond my once small Iowa boundaries but I have also created a life in all these different places and that I feel is such a personal accomplishment.    

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bubbles with that?

After all the rebel raising antics we got into in Istanbul we decided we need to purify ourselves before we entered back into the UAE.  Not really but a turkish bath sounded awesome so it was decidedly so.  We walked it into the Hamami on Cemberlitas Square and perused at the menu.  There were three different combos to choose from, I naturally went with the super-sized version where they scrub me down and finish it all off with an oil massage.  We bid adu to the boys, they went left and we took a right.

And once you come out of the bath your body looks
just like theirs!
We walked into the ladies changing room, it was an open floor plan with three levels, balconies around each level and glass paned dressing room lined the floors.  We changed into our little black bikini briefs, provided to us, and wrapped up in a plaid towel, made of thin cotton kind, similar to a dish towel.  Now that we were dressed we were ready to get the scrubbing party started!

Like gazing at stars
Walking into the actual Hamami, I started flashing back to sex and the city.  Remember the episode where Charlotte would not take off her towel in the steam room, because all she thought were, "Thighs! Thighs! Thighs!"?  I kind of had a moment like that, but then I realized I probably look more out of place because I was gripping my towel so tightly, but the steam in the air and the authenticity of this new wonder relaxed me and coaxed me into fitting in.  We did a lap around the huge circular slab of marble, the centerpiece of the room, with topless women draped across it relaxing in the steam (it really did seem somewhat of some male fantasy).  Some of them were face down on their bellies, and others looking to the doomed ceiling complete with tiny star and moon sky lights to let in little bursts of the outside light.   We finally find a little slice of heaven to relax on.  We laid out our towels and basked in the steam and the warm rock heating us.

Kind of odd that they have kids in this pic, but whateves
look at those bubbles!
It was not too long in my zen moment that I realized, "Batter up!"  I was rearranged by a woman in a loosely fitting black bra and underwear to lay down along the side of the marble.   She dumped water on me with a little metal bowl and began to loofa my arms legs and stomach.  She gave me a deft pat to turn over and lay flat on my stomach.  Once my backside was buffed I was tapped again and she assertively grabbed my fore arm to keep me in an upright and locked position for a seated scrubbing.  To be honest I thought the scrubbing would be a little more intense, you know you hear people say they took off 3 layers of skin in these things, but not my lady just a nice gentle buff.  There was one loofa lady about about 12 o'clock on the circle, who choose not to wear a bra while scrubbing and wow did her puppies give her some extra cleaning power.  She was no spring chicken and no small potato, she whipped her twins this way and that to make sure her bathers were extra clean, they must of paid for the super duper sized combo!

The bird bath
After the initial scrub I was back lying down face up.  She bent over me with this white cloth, it looked like a cheese cloth doubled over so it was like a sac.  She dunked it in the water, bellowed out the bag trapping air inside of it and then wrung it out top to bottom onto my stomach.  I could not believe the amount of bubbles that thing produced!  Whewee best bubble bath ever!!  After my bubble scrub she grabbed my arm and directed me next to this faucet that was dripping water into what looked like a bird bath.  She sat me down, "you want shampoo?"  I did not even hesitate, because yes, yes, I want the whole shebang! After I was bubbles head to toe, she filled up the metal bowl floating in the bird bath and mercilessly dumped water over my head several times.  Once she was satisfied she pointed at the door of the jacuzzi and she was onto her next topless lady in waiting.

After a little jacuzzi time and drip, drop, drying, I found myself in the waiting room for my massage.  I really did not know what to expect as the massage was only 30 lira more which is about $19 US.  I was called into this room with 6 beds all lined up all occupied by ladies in the black briefs face down.  Heck if we get buffed together we might as well get rubbed together.  This experience is not for the shy at heart.  It was a fine massage and after I was fully drenched in oil the lady did a little "beep beep" with her pointer finger on my nose and ushered me out.

It all felt wonderful, by the end of it all I was confidently walking around in my black briefs not even thinking about letting it all hang out.  My skin was glistening and my mind was quiet, a fantastic cherry on the top of my Istanbul sundae.  So if you ever have the opportunity to go to a Hamami it definitely comes highly recommended by me, although be sure to super duper size!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Turkey Trot

We woke up at a cheerful 5:30 on Friday morning, finished packing and hopped in a cab on the way to the airport.  We had our sights set on Istanbul.  Life had other plans.  After going through the first security checked we were greeted by literally about 300 people queuing up behind the ticket counters.  E looked at me and commented, "this is why we get here early," and we waiting behind our 50 other Istanbul bound buddies.  Once it was our turn we approached the counter, handed over itineraries and passports.  Our ticketing agent was clearly overwhelmed by the crowds but had an annoyed sense of humor about it all, and one very neatly coiffed, perfectly trimmed uni-brow.  She grimaced at the screen and mentioned something about the system going down.  E and I smiled to each other and then looked back at the agent who now had turned her grimace directly on us.  "Your reservation has been canceled, you have no ticket for this flight."
We also like to bring the rain with us
everywhere we travel.
A view of the city from
Galata Tower.

I looked at the clock, Eric looked at the agent, "What do you mean it's canceled, why would it be canceled?  What do we do now?"

"Go back out of security, and go purchase a new ticket."  She shrugged her shoulders, raised her uni-brow at us and said, "Wolla," (which I have not quite gleamed the connotation yet of this word, I think it is like saying, oh well but also has some sort of God reference, again will get back to you on that one.)

So we did, but we ran because now it is literally one hour before our flight departs and we officially do not have tickets to Istanbul.  And amazingly we stayed calm because we have been in this situation before (first trip ever together, Cabo, Eric had a ticket but he did not have a seat, a story for another time).  New tickets were purchased and of course they were at a much higher exorbitant price, because why would they honor a reservation with a reservation number, total, and taxes that they decided to cancel after we made a phone call to confirm?  We were then in a full sprint back up to the counter where the other reservation agent looked at us questioningly, "You just bought these tickets?"  Yes, yes we did, now process them NOW,  please?

Needless to say within the hour we had gone throw passport control, security, and we were sitting side by side on our way to Istanbul, thank goodness the flight was not full.

We stayed in Takism Square which was  perfect location, our hotel was about a 5 minute walk from the main drag.  The main street was covered with brick and a trolley rode up and down it.  There were was a mixture of book stores, boutiques, cafes and bars.

First stop was lunch.  These little spots are literally everywhere.  They are called doners (yes it does rhyme with that and yes we all have minds like 12 year old boys), this adorable old man shaves off the chicken, put it in a pita with pickles, savory spices lettuce, some have yogurt sauce, chili sauce, ahh my mouth is watering in memory.  They are amazing!  We also had fish sandwiches down by the water, which were delectable!  

This is the above mentioned Galata Tower.  We paid our lira and rode the elevator to the top.  We walked around the whole tower giving us panoramic views of Istanbul.

The motley crew at lunch.  We had some fabulous meals, especially our last night.  We went to a wine bar to celebrate a birthday and the wine was so good and the cheese too.  I do not think I knew how incredible cheese was, as my categories have always consisted of: cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella, blue, etc, but whew, my pallet was a very happy one.  Also at the very special dinner we got to witness a proposal that took place literally inches away from us.  I teared up and got goosebumps, my romantic meter was swelling with joy for the couple.  Loves.  

This picture of the blue mosque was taken right between two nice little rain showers.  I have never been in a place where the sun will come out and I was so warm and literally 10 minutes later the winds picked up and I was wrapped up in my scarf.  Word to the traveling wise, always, ALWAYs bring a scarf, one that is big enough to work as a shawl.  I typically throw one in as an after thought but use it everyday.  Speaking of which I got the most beautiful emerald green silk scarf from the grand bazaar.  That is going to be my token from each place that I visit, so far I have one from Morocco, Italy, India, and now Turkey.

Inside the blue mosque.  I had to add a wrap around skirt to cover my legs, my shoulders and hair were covered with the newly purchased scarf from above. (Picture to follow, its on E's camera.)

This place is called the cisterns. It has got to be the coolest place I have ever seen.  The floor is about two feet of water with little fishies and you weave through this underground building on a little bridge.  It is romantic yet a little eery all in one.  Want to know what is just as awesome?  I have heard of this place before because the bachelorette, Ali, had a date there (pretty sure with Frank, the lame one that got back together with his girlfriend like an episode before then end, but check my facts, like you care :).  I am a total dork, but yepp I was pretty pumped. 

This is in the back of the cisterns.  It one of two Medusa heads.  There is no explained reason for why it is upside down.  While I was reading the possible explanations and interpretations I remembered how much I liked the greek mythology unit we did back in the day in Ms. Danforth's class, I think I might have to revive it a little in my future literary quests.

One the third day we took a ferry out to one of the many islands.  It was about an hour long boat ride.  

The boys got their swimming fix in although, I am pretty sure they were freezing.  There were only about two other people in the water that day.  I was chilled just sitting on the rocky beach laughing at them.  The land behind them is the Asian side of Istanbul.

The view from our lunch spot on the quaint little island.  Delicious food and fabulous company.

That is the first taste of Turkey.  On the last night we went to a Hamam, a turkish bath house, it was an experience unlike anything else and deserves a post all to itself, stay tuned!