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!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Calling all Mad Men

The cast of The Real World, Tempe
Oh co-habitating.  I have lived with boys before.  In fact after I graduated college I lived with four guys, another girl, and a dog, we were the latest cast of the Real World Tempe.  My mom called it the animal house, the were certain poles in the living room, strange aromas lingering about.  My Dubai apartment, not like the animal house, not even a little.  Especially, after the maid comes.  Did I tell you we have a maid, well had, I suppose, there were some visa issues on her side so we are on to the next one.  But this maid worked for a little under 5 hours, cleaning our two bed room apartment, making beds, mopping floors, even washing windows, and guess how much cashoola we paid her (the going rate mind you!) $23.  Can you believe that?  I watched her work and thought, "girl you need to learn to negotiate better," after all she had braces and those are not cheap as all our parents know!  But the maid makes co-habitating a bit easier, but boys just really do not know what they are missing out on: dish towels for one.  I know it sounds trite, but poor mother earth was taking a bruising from the amount of paper towels used in our little kitchen.  Knives, that was another small investment.  These guys had a single knife in the kitchen.  It was a HUGE butchers knife, typical guy fashion, probably thinking the bigger the better.  But to slice an apple with that thing down right dangerous so we invested in a pairing knife or is it pearing?  I am not sure.  We also got a few rounds of what the boys call "smelly candles," from bath and body works, just to make it all feel like a nice little home.

Similar hair color, slightly different assets...
Speaking of home, living with these guys is a bit like playing house.  The most classic of pretend games growing up.  The other morning I had just finished emptying the dishwasher for the second time that day and I had gathered up the news papers literally strewn everywhere and put them in the trash and then tied off the bag.  As I was weaseling the bag out of the trash can Eric came running to my rescue (not necessary, but thanks?) and said confidently, "Baby, I will take out the trash, that's the mans job."  In my head I am thinking, calling all Mad Men, we are back to the traditional 1950s household roles, how cute (sort of).  It made me chuckle a bit appreciative that he was willing to pitch in, even if it was just to pitch the trash.

Moving to Dubai so far has been such a great experience.  Dubai and I are still in the honeymoon phases though and I am sure she will annoy me sooner or later.  I have a feeling the blistering heat might be a bit pestering, but we will work out our differences.  It was just such a big deal before I left that I was quitting my job and moving to the middle east.  Rarely but sometimes, it would come up that I was going to get to do the little stuff with E everyday, running to the market, going to dinner with friends, sitting at the table with our laptops, but looking back on the past three weeks that is the stuff that stands out more to me than the slight culture shock of Dubai.  I guess it just goes to show that it is more about the company that you keep than were you keep it.  

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Grass is Greener

IKEA Dubai-Much to buy when moving in with
two bachelors....
Dubai has started to feel a bit like home, but we are lacking some major essentials in the house hold so today we went a little bit domestic.  And there is not a successful shopping trip with out a little baby meltdown, so I had my first temper tantrum.  Eric had his last time we went to the grocery store so I only figured it was appropriately my turn.  Nothing major but we hit up the grocery store, IKEA, and the plant store, I let my hunger go too long and WHAM I was officially hangry.  That is a combo of hungry and angry (because not enough sustenance and too little energy and patience).  I know that some of you out there know what I am talking about.  And I know for sure that my old assistants know what I am talking about from personal experience because whenever there was a major office mood swing they would always request that I went to lunch, immediately.  Once we took care of the hunger problem shopping was back to normal.  We even hit up the plant store, yepp we went that domestic.  It is a place I usually get bored at quite quickly, but we bought seeds to grow some veggies and anytime food is at the focus I am all in.  So now we have all these pots, dirt, and seeds and it occurrs to me that we have no idea how to garden, slight problem but I think we will do what we always do when we are it.  Works every time.

I guess the big news of the week is that I got not one but two job offers.  I was really excited about this prospect and then in typical type A fashion began to worry that I was going to have to turn one down.  It is a little like breaking up with someone, the whole uncomfortable: it's not you but it's me...I have to focus on what is best for me now...etc.  So tomorrow I get to meet with both companies and make my big decision.  I am following in many ERACers steps as well as my lovely phoenix roommate and am going into the recruiting industry.  I feel its a good fit for people like me who really do not know what they want to do so now I will help others get the job of their dreams, everybody wins!  One of the companies is run by a lady from Dallas, a little American girl power never hurts,  so if all goes according to plan I will be gainfully employed after tomorrow and going to work on Tuesday!  A few downfalls though, now that I will officially be getting a paycheck I have to start pitching in on rent, no more wednesday fun days by the pool, and no more 3:00 pm workouts, oh goodness now I am 'grass is greener'ing it.  But really I am truly thankful and happy to get up in the morning and go to work, and take home a paycheck, and add to my bank account rather than watch it dwindle with all this amazing Dubai shopping.

We have some weekend trips coming up which I am really excited about.  The crew is off to Turkey next weekend and then scuba diving and snorkeling in Oman the weekend after that.  I am truly pumped to finally get to take part in all the travel opportunities that this part of the world has to offer. The trips also coincide nicely to renew my tourist visa.  When you come to Dubai you get 30 days on a travel visa and then you are officially an illegal.  And being an illegal in the middle east does not sound like too much of a party to me, so all I have to do is the leave the country, re-enter and viola I have another 30 days.  I will get sponsorship through my job eventually, but in the meantime its awful nice to have a reason to jet set to Turkey for the weekend, not that I need one.  Cheers!