Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Egypt, Day 5

Cairo on Friday was so backwards from what I had gotten used to. Since it’s the Sabbath, almost no cars were on the road. Ali, our driver, came and picked us up and we went to a city about twenty minutes away to go to the small branch of the church there. There were probably about 35-40 people in Sacrament meeting, which was held in a small villa in a quaint little neighborhood. It was like a culture warp when we went inside, with older gentlemen who could have come from any ward here in Provo and young couples with little babies. Everyone was so kind and welcoming.

Then it was time to catch our flight home, or in my case, back to Abu Dhabi. Laura was ready to get back to clean air, and I was excited to go back to a less crowded area of the world. Our time in Egypt was fascinating and thought-provoking, but it was good to be headed to a place where we didn’t all have to share the same bedroom.

We got to the airport and got checked in (yay for diplomats who are excellent travelers!) quickly and then sat and waited. There were a couple hours until our flight, but Laura spotted an indoor playground where the boys played. Matt watched them while Laura and I hung out by the gate. What we didn’t realize was that since we were both wearing knee-length skirts and nothing covering our legs, we’d be a spectacle at the airport. More than one man stared longer than usual (although, is any length of stare, “usual”?). As Laura and I discussed it, she reminded me that in their culture, staring is not frowned upon. That was so foreign to me. Whenever I get caught staring, I blush and turn away…but here, it’s just a normal part of life. If you want to look at something for a prolonged period, go ahead! It was strange to be the “scantily clad” one, especially since I felt modestly dressed for what I’m used to. One man even tried to sneakily take pictures of us. I felt kind of cheap.

After two flights, and some long waiting time at the Bahrain airport, we finally made it back to Abu Dhabi. We breathed a collective sigh of relief as we enjoyed fresh air and uncrowded highways. It had been a long day, and Avery and Jameson fell asleep on the way home. I looked forward to having the Internet again so I could check to see if there were problems at work or if Sarah had her baby while we had been away. It was good to be back to where I could feel a little more comfortable, although it was quite amazing to experience such a whirlwind tour to Egypt. And strangely enough, it was great to get back to sleeping on the couch instead of feeling guilty for making Laura sleep on the crack of our two twin beds smooshed together at the hotel.

Egypt, Day 4

Here it was, our big sight-seeing day. Matt had been in meetings while Laura and the boys and I had been galavanting around the city, so this was the day we let him choose the big things he wanted to see. And it was quite the itinerary we had scheduled. Our driver, Ali, came to pick us up pretty early, and our guide was a very nice Egyptian woman named Mi (pronounced “my”). She was very kind to Jameson and Avery, and they took to her pretty well, too.

We started out at the Citadel, which is like the fortress in the middle of the city on the hill. There are a bunch of stories as to how the location was chosen. They wanted it built in the part of the city that had the freshest air…and how do you find the freshest air? You put a bunch of meat in different areas and whichever spoils last is your golden ticket. And so the Citadel was born, complete with a mosque for worship. The view from the Citadel was amazing. The boys didn’t seem to be in awe of it, but they loved the rocks in the courtyard. So they sat and played while we snapped photos. Some of the native Egyptian women found the boys to be a tourist attraction entirely too good to pass up. They got out their camera phones and started capturing moments of their own with the two little blond boys. I mean, they are pretty cute.

But that’s not the funniest thing that happened at the Citadel… Before our main tour began, we were waiting around, taking pictures, and Jameson let us know he needed to go to the bathroom. We walked up the stairs to the main building and were waiting for Matt to catch up with us. As we were standing by one of the gardens, I heard what sounded like a faucet or hose. I turn to see Jameson with his shorts down, taking care of business. Laura was horrified, but there wasn’t much we could do about it. We all thought it was kind of a little funny, and Laura told us he had seen his friend do it. And her good-natured response was, “Hey, at least we don’t have to find a bathroom now!” Kind of humorous to see him with his shorts on backwards and wet.

Next, we headed to the Al-Azhar Mosque. It was one of their prayer times, so they made the women (Laura and myself) wear hair scarves to go in. It was kind of strange to feel like an outsider, but I didn’t want to feel like I was disrespecting anyone’s religion, so head scarf it was. Jameson and Avery found the large open area in the middle of the mosque to be a fun play area, so they began running around. And they were buffing the marble of the floor, so Jameson thought it’d be fun to risk it and jump over the cord of the buffer as the man was walking past. Fun games four-year-olds play! They also gave us some books on Islam so we could better understand the culture.

After the mosque, we walked to the Khan Al-Khalili, the open air market where souvenirs abounded. Men were calling after us as we headed up and down the alleyways with stores on either side, very narrow, stores were all small and cramped. The wares were there for the unsuspecting tourist to try and haggle a price, best they could. Our guide told us to start quite low and work our way up a little bit, and to not act like we loved the item, otherwise the shop owners wouldn’t budge on price. She also didn’t come with us as we perused the wares because sometimes the sellers would try to cut the guides a deal, and she didn’t like that shady business. The kids ending up staying at a café with her while Laura and Matt and I had a little time to see what was available. After about twenty minutes, Laura had made a purchase of a brass plate. She decided to go back and see how the boys were doing while Matt and I continued searching for deals. I couldn’t find anything I loved, but we found a shop that sold copper pots. I was done and went with Avery and Mi to wait while Matt took Laura and Jameson back to the shop for Laura to see what she could find. While we were waiting, I guess Jameson decided to take bathroom matters into his own hands again and used the street as his urinal. Mortified, Laura scolded him and made him apologize to the shop owner whose shoes how gotten splashed on.

So…we made it out of the market mostly unscathed and then headed out to Giza where the pyramids are. On the way, we stopped at a papyrus making factory where they showed us how they made papyrus and then tried to sell us paintings on it. Those people sure do know how to push their wares. And they definitely capitalize on the fact that people love to eat up the history of ancient Egypt and will pay whatever it takes. It was fun to see how they make papyrus, but I wasn’t interested in it enough to invest.

We got back into the van and headed for the big highlight of the day, the pyramids…because seriously, when you think Egypt, you think pyramids. The first one is the only remaining ancient wonder of the world, standing at 440 feet tall. And I actually got to climb up on it! Only 150 people per day get to go into it and see the chambers; we had gotten there in the afternoon, so we were too late to go in. The second pyramid is just a little shorter and quite close to the first one, so we headed over there. They let anyone who wants to pay a few bucks to go see the dark tunnels. We forked it over and went and stood in line. There were no cameras allowed in there, and I hadn’t gotten my camera to the guide to hold quickly enough, so it was in my pocket. The guards (who weren’t labeled with anything official-looking…the whole operation seemed a little shady!) wouldn’t let me in—and even suggested I just leave my camera there with them while I walked down in. I decided it wasn’t worth having my camera stolen, and I didn’t want to fight them anymore, so I turned around and gave up the opportunity. As I later found out, it was probably for the best that I didn’t try to traverse the pyramid insides. It was apparently quite claustrophobia-inducing in there, and I wouldn’t have survived very well. And there were several girls swooning, either fainted or close to it. Jameson took to it like a fish to water and just climbed those steps like a madman. I guess if you’re four, you fit better. :) Laura only made it about halfway through until she turned around and decided it wasn’t worth it for her either.

Then we headed to a point where we could see all three pyramids and the three “baby” pyramids all at one time, and we took pictures (because we were tourists…it’s what we did best!). It was surreal, like being in a movie scene where they get the far away picture of Egypt with the pyramids and the sand. As a side note, my shoes were new; and my heels were raw after all the walking. Stupid, I know. But they were cute. And I was trying not to complain and put a damper on the situation because I knew it was my own stupidity that had gotten me into this predicament.

Close by was the famous Sphinx, where we went next. There’s a temple next to it that we toured as well. Like I said before, it felt as though I was watching something on television, something you never think you’ll see in person until you’re standing there with it staring you in the face. And it’s noseless, just like all the pictures you see. And here I was, getting photos of it, up close and personal. Amazing!

Well, after seeing all Cairo had to offer for us, at least for the time being, we found some food and headed home. Tired were we! Laura wanted to get the boys cleaned up after all the climbing and playing in sand and dirt and rocks (it’s what they do best). And we realized it was now or never for souvenirs, since the next day was Friday (church day in the Middle East). I coerced Matt into walking up the island with me to buy a wooden bowl that I had found in our shopping adventures. I had been hoping to find something at the open air market that would be cheaper, but luck wasn’t on my side in that respect. So, we hiked up to where I had found something I knew I liked, and I made my purchase. It was lovely. And Matt was so nice to put up with my hobbling down the street with my poor, raw feet as I went to buy one small thing I wanted. We had a good talk about their family’s new assignment and travel in general. It was fun to see Matt in his own element, doing his thing.

I had promised I wouldn’t complain about my feet, but when we got back to the hotel, I took off my shoes and they were bloody and hurt like crazy. I soaked my feet and put hydrogen peroxide on them (and they’re pretty good now, a week later!). Bandaging them was a process, but I survived. And I will think twice about wearing shoes because they’re cute. Comfort means much more now! These are notes I need to remember as I travel…especially after my high heels experience during a day in New York (who knew there’d be so much walking?!). Vanity and pride ruled me…

Egypt, Day 3

The next morning, we’d kind of worked ourselves into a routine. Breakfast around 7:00, leave to be tourists around 8:30 or 9:00. I never really realized how much longer things take when you have children. I think I can appreciate how tired parents get now. And while 7:00 may seem early (gulp!)— especially for vacation!—it was perfect because it was 9:00 Abu Dhabi time. I don’t think my body could handle many more time changes, so it was great. And we’d go to bed around 9:00 at night after being so tired…wow, I am rambling!

Ok, so day three we decided to get a guide for the morning to go see City of the Dead and Coptic Cairo. These are new terms for me, too, so I’ll try to explain. City of the Dead is Cairo’s way of doing a cemetery. It’s a whole bunch of rundown-looking buildings where people are entombed. And poor people live there; I guess there’s some shadiness as to the legality of it, but they make it work, even with satellite dishes on top of their “homes.” The guide pointed that out to us. She wouldn’t let us go into the City of the Dead because apparently it wasn’t safe for Americans. Um…ok…well, better safe than sorry, right? Sure.
The Coptic part of the city was the part that was founded by the Christians before Islam became the predominant religion in Egypt. There was this really neat church with no foundation that they call the Hanging Church. The guide was telling us that it’s more than 1700 years old. There were some neat architectural elements; some of my favorites were the wood and mother-of-pearl inlays. They were so intricate and beautiful.

The next part of my narrative is quite hilarious and somewhat disturbing all at the same time…and for so many reasons! We had a couple hours to spare with the guide. We wanted her to take us to find fabric, but she said the market we wanted to browse was not safe. She ended up taking us to a perfumery that was government-regulated (i.e., safe for Americans…for goodness’ sake, people!). We sat down around a little table and had drinks (this is where I fell in love with tamarin juice…I was skeptical at first, but the flavor is amazing) and the man there told us stories about some of the different scents and how they are used. Avery played in the coffee grounds that were supposed to be used to clear your nasal passages between smellings. They also had little glass perfume bottles. There was one scent that all the tourists bought…it was called “Secret of the Desert” and it supposedly drives men wild. Stories have it that women wear it on their wedding night. We all started joking about how Laura would use some but that I wasn’t allowed. This brings out the questions of “why aren’t you married?” (yep, even on vacation I can’t get away from it!), so I tell them it’s fine. The Egyptian man who was showing us everything asked if he could marry me. He had already been talking to us about his baby and wife, so Laura told him I didn’t want to be a second wife. Yeah, no joke! This man was kind of freaking me out by how much he persisted, too. He followed me to where I paid for the stuff I bought and started trying to hook me up with the kid at the register. The kid looked at me and said, “I think I need a wife who is…smaller.” WHAT?! Yeah, what he really meant was younger, but for a minute, it threw me for a loop! After we had finally made it out of there, we were ready for lunch and a break. I had about five different oils on my skin, and I left smelling like an old woman, a man, and a bunch of different flowers, all at once.

We headed back to the hotel and I read my book while Laura took a nap and the boys watched Ratatouille…again. :) (hey, it kept them happy!) Then we braved the afternoon. Jameson had seen a bunch of horse carts around town and kept asking his mom about them, wanting to ride in one of them. They made me a little skeptical…kind of rickety. Laura is brave, and she worked a price to get the four of us (Laura, the boys, and me) up to the shopping parts of town. Jameson was in heaven as he waved like he was in a parade and sang “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain.” Oh, it was hilarious! And Avery was so tired that he fell asleep.

After making it up to the shopping district, we wanted to find some Egyptian-made things to buy. Laura was looking for a copper pot, and I didn’t quite know what I wanted (story of my life on this trip…why am I a picky souvenir buyer? No one can solve that mystery, unfortunately. Maybe a therapist…). We didn’t have much luck, and before we knew it, it was time for us to meet Matt at the Embassy to go to dinner. So we hiked back down the island and met him, only to find out that he wanted to hike back up to close where we had come from to eat. It was on a restaurant boat on the Nile called Le Pacha. We made it there (barely!) and I got to try some more Egyptian food, namely koshari—a spiced rice and pasta dish. It tasted really good! And I tried some pigeon…it’s supposedly packed with energy-supplementing vitamins and nutrients. Egyptian legend has it that newlywed couples eat pigeon the day after their wedding night to replenish their energy. I can’t make this stuff up!

The rest of the night was fairly quiet, except for the fact that the Whittons found out where they’d next be stationed in their travels abroad required for Matt’s career. Drum roll, please…..the answer is: Tashkent, Uzbekistan! Matt gets to learn Russian or Uzbek before they go. Should be a very interesting time in their lives! We’ll see if I get up the guts to go visit them there.

Egypt, Day 2

It’s been several days since I’ve written about my traveling adventures. I’ve been caught up in the experience and haven’t taken the time to capture my thoughts here…so I’ll do my best at distilling my vacation down and telling you the good and funny parts, along with everything else. Here goes!

Our second day in Egypt was a little more relaxing for me. I felt like I had some bearings and wasn’t as caught off guard with a strange, new place. We ate breakfast at the hotel, which was in and of itself a big undertaking! There was a large buffet-style spread of pretty much everything Western you could want—breads, cereal, scrambled eggs, fruit, etc.—but no regular bacon. They don’t have pork products over here, so it was beef bacon…and it looked questionable to me! Anyway…the boys had a fun breakfast experience after they discovered the chocolate doughnuts. And these weren’t just normal chocolate doughnuts…they were covered in ganache, not frosting, so they were quite decadent. I had one every morning we stayed in the hotel. Oh dear…here I go on about food in the hotel. Like we care? I didn’t think so.

Laura and I decided to go do the things that Matt wouldn’t want to do, since he had to go sit in meetings all day long (the entire reason we got to go anyway!).
We went to the Egyptian Museum where they have all of the things they found in Tutenkahman’s tomb. We got a guide to show us all of the most appealing stuff and give us the history behind it. If you ever go to Cairo, I would definitely recommend getting guides to show you around. They know so much and you don’t waste your time figuring out what’s what. Our guide at the museum was so good at the private little tour we had. He kept us moving quickly and would practically push people out of the way so we could see what he was describing. It was so interesting! I got to see Tutenkaman’s death mask and all of the statues and boxes and jars and weapons and everything from his tomb that hadn’t been pilfered by thieves. I couldn’t take my camera in there, but it was pretty amazing, all of the history that’s in that building. We dragged the boys along, and they weren’t loving it…as was evidenced by the meltdown that occurred about an hour in. Jameson started crying and screaming that he was tired, and something set Avery off, so they were both in tears. We tried coaxing them along with snacks (thanks for the Swedish fish, Lynne!) and promises, but those only go so far, especially when Avery gets into one of those moods. All of the tour groups kept staring. They have a special room for King Tut’s death mask, so I went in without Laura and the boys while she tried to console them. Then she went in for a minute while I watched the boys. Avery was like a noodle and he refused comfort. People were coming up and trying to offer us tissues (he had a runny nose) and patting him on the head. Side note: when you have two little blond boys with you in an Arabic country, they get noticed. Everyone wants to make noises at them or pat them or kiss them. It’s kind of funny, but also a little wearying! Anyway, when Laura came back out, Avery was so happy to see her that he stopped crying and fell asleep and we continued on our way. Then we went to the mummy room where some of the most famous mummies are. Kind of old and decrepit, but quite well preserved! I saw King Ramses and Queen Hatshepsut. Jameson loved that part. I found it fascinating with a touch of strange. But quite interesting, all around.
After the museum, we decided to walk back to our hotel. What a sight we must have been! It would have normally been a ten or fifteen minute walk, but when you’ve got Jameson trying to hail a taxi—that kid was so tired!—and Avery’s little two-year-old steps (he had woken up by this time), it took us awhile. And we didn’t have the stroller. This was fun, though! Avery was renewed by sleep and was so cute as he walked along. I picked him up during the road crossings, but he always wanted back down. On the subject of road crossing…Cairo is an extremely crowded city. Cars are everywhere. People fill in the cracks where cars aren’t. So getting around is always an adventure. This is what it really means to “walk like an Egyptian”: dart into traffic when it’s slow enough, try to pass through by cars as they are stopped, and hope you don’t get squashed in the process. Seems like they’ve got it down pretty nicely, though. People weren’t angry when you stepped out in front of them. It’s just the way it works, so why mess with the system?

After we got home, it was naptime/Ratatouille time (I brought the movie and the kids watched it about three times on my laptop while we were there…good thing it was in my carry-on!)/reading time. We kind of chilled for a couple hours and detoxed from our crazy morning.
Then we decided to head out to do some shopping, so we hired a driver to take us around for a couple hours. We had a couple galleries that had been recommended to us, and we wanted to check them out. Laura talked to the hotel doorman and had him explain to the driver where we wanted to go. He said he could find it, and we were on our way. Well, he couldn’t find it. We ended up wandering around on our own while he parked a few blocks away and waited for us. I guess the store was nowhere to be found, but we walked up and down and found some pretty fun shops anyway. We took turns watching the boys outside the shops while the other one went in to browse…too many fragile things in too tight a space to have them in there! What I found quite hilarious was the attention the boys got. Jameson and I were trying to play a game outside one of the stores and two men who were sitting on a curb just a ways away started watching the two of us. I kept an eye on them, and one of them pulled out his cell phone and started snapping pictures of the little blond boy he saw. Who knew we’d be such a spectacle?! After we were finished shopping, we went and found the driver and told him to take us to the US Embassy, where we were meeting up with Matt and the other diplomats to do a felucca ride on the Nile. Laura was sorely disappointed at the driver when he dropped us off. He was one we had gotten through our hotel, and the hotel had told us one price, but he charged us almost half again as much! Refusing to leave until he was paid the amount he quoted, the driver remained firm and Laura caved (and Embassy traffic wasn’t allowing much car standing time, so she was getting hurried on by the person directing cars in and out).

After that fiasco, we boarded a bus that took us to a dock where some small boats (feluccas) were awaiting. The sun had just gone down and the lights of the city over the Nile were so beautiful. I was happy to just sit and enjoy the time out on the river after the hectic day we’d had. Laura had heard there was a good pizza place in town by where we had been shopping, but we hadn’t had the time to squeeze that in before we met up with Matt, so we were going to go hungry (or at least just live on the snacks they had said would be provided). Great minds must think alike because a few minutes after we hopped on the boat, they brought us pizza from the place that had been recommended. And it was pretty good! I think the funniest thing about the ride on the river was a little boy I met. He was six and his dad was part of the diplomat group we were with. He was so talkative! He wanted to tell me all about his school and his experience in Egypt and anything that came to his mind. As much as I was worn out by children that day, I found it in me to be interested in the boy. His dad kept apologizing, but I think it was the kid’s personality. I really couldn’t bring myself to be rude.

Well, after being out on the water for about an hour and making our way back and forth across the river (which confused us…we were thinking we’d actually be heading down the Nile and docking somewhere else, or at least heading back up afterward), we got back on our same bus and went back to the hotel. Oh, it should have taken fifteen minutes…ON FOOT. Almost an hour later, through the horrific traffic and difficulty of being a huge, hard-to-maneuver bus, we finally made it to our hotel. Laura was feeling queasy at the smell of exhaust and smoke and Egyptian pollution, and I had a headache, so we went and crashed in our hotel room. Vacations can take it right out of you! But no complaints here. Sometimes it’s good to run hard and then crash even harder.

Egypt, Day 1

**This was written on the actual day it describes!**

Culture shock is an understatement. Today was a journey that left me feeling a little overwhelmed but still excited about seeing new things and watching the world around me.

As I left this morning, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for experiences like I had never experienced before. I got them, that’s for sure. We got to the airport, and they had cancelled our flight to Bahrain, so they put us on a direct flight to Cairo on a different airline. That was nice…having never traveled with children before (seeing as I have none of my own…), I realize that changing planes could have been a nightmare, hauling around a car seat and shepherding two little boys who have minds of their own. We got checked into the flight and headed to the terminal.
After finally getting through security, Jameson and Avery were excited to see the planes and watched them through the window. I saw a picture-perfect opportunity as the two little boys clambered to the window to see the planes, so I pulled out my camera and decided to snap a photo. Two guards immediately began scolding me, so I had to put it away. Oops…just call me an Ugly American. Ugh.

We made it onto the plane and found our seats. Take-off was smooth and the rest of the flight followed without any huge incident. After trying to provide entertainment for a four-year-old for three hours on a plane and keep him safe (i.e., get him to keep his seatbelt on when we’re trying to land), the plane hit some turbulence the last fifteen or so minutes of the trip. I normally don’t have much of a problem with motion sickness, but this was doing a number on my stomach. I regretted all of the Reese’s miniatures I had been eating during the duration of the flight. To make matters worse, a woman seated a couple rows behind me started puking her guts out. I didn’t know that people could make these noises! I was seriously about to lose my lunch. I think I was more worried about Laura, though, because if I was struggling, she (being pregnant), must have been on the verge of vomiting herself. Finally we touched ground, and I was ready to be rid of that plane.

My first impression of the airport: I thought that the terminal was old and in definite need of repair, but I was sure it would get better. As we made our way further in, I noticed that it was not modern at all—I mean, I’m not complaining, but it’s kind of strange to live in a world run by computers and to see that nothing here was. Luckily, I was traveling with my diplomat bro-in-law, so we didn’t have much trouble at immigration, and we had someone there to meet us to help with transportation to the hotel and everything. But I couldn’t quite be rid of the airport just yet.

As I’m sure anyone who’s reading this wants to know, I really needed to use a bathroom, and it was going to be a ways to the hotel. I went in and used the facilities and flushed the toilet. It didn’t look like it flushed all the way, so I flushed again and held down the handle…water began spraying and ended up on the back of my pants, about midway down on of my pant leg to my ankle. The three women attendants were worried about me, and they tried to help and gave me paper towels and got me under the hand dryer and were as helpful as could be…sadly enough, having only been there for a few minutes, I had no Egyptian pounds yet, so I could not tip them. Faux pas number two in just a couple hours. Annie, the awful international traveler!!

We made it to the hotel with the assistance of a very talkative and cheerful driver who was very kind and answered all our questions. And he negotiated traffic quite masterfully, as well. Traffic here is NOTHING like it is in Utah. You think driving is bad there? Try six lanes of traffic squeezed in where four lanes are painted. Try two people trying to drive in the same lane. Try people stepping out in front of you, left and right, almost oblivious to automobiles speeding at them. I was looking at their cars—most of them are a little beat up, but it makes sense with their method of fend-for-yourself driving. And for the most part, no traffic signals. Honking and crowds and shops galore— it was a lot to take in during the first few hours in a new country. I knew a little of what to expect when we arrived, but you can never fully appreciate a place until you actually experience it. I was claustrophobic, startled, intrigued, and in awe, all at once as we traversed the small, people-lined streets of the city.

We got to the hotel where we got some snacks and I took a nap. I love vacations for that reason (not the only reason nor the biggest!)—sleep when you want to, for the most part. Then Matt had a meet-and-greet type meeting for the convention he came for. Laura had gotten some tips on good restaurants in the city, so we decided to try our hand (feet?) at walking to a restaurant a little way down the Nile. It was a little tricky to find, and after pushing a stroller up and down about three thousand curbs, we finally found it with the help of a local woman who led us down the right street once we were close. What a time we had there! Avery’s got this temper thing going where he—as Laura puts it—likes to change his mind about everything, and when he does, you’d better be there to accommodate his every need. Jameson was pretty good, except for the putting sugar and salt everywhere and insisting that he pour the water for everyone. The food was wonderful. I got veal chops with oriental rice, and it was delicious. We ate, and discussed our experiences from the day, which had been crazy, that’s for sure. Attention spans are short for small children, so by the time dessert arrived, they were ready to be done. Avery is a mover and shaker, so he wanted Laura to hold him, but then he didn’t want her to hold him. Somewhere amidst all of the chaos, he kicked a glass and it broke. Uh oh. Laura’s a great mom and didn’t freak out, but handled it quite well. We also met a table of some nice guys from L.A. who had decided to just take a trip to see some places around the world. We talked to them for a bit, and it turns out they’re headed to Dubai in a few days. Laura told them a few fun things to do while they’re there.

And now, after surviving the taxi ride home, I’m sitting here thinking about how I’m excited to go see things tomorrow and that today is over. Don’t get me wrong…this post sounds kind of frustrated and weary, but I don’t mean it that way at all. I think the newness was a little overwhelming. But tomorrow, I don’t have to start over with newness…I’ve already got a base, so I should be ready for a few (smaller) new experiences for the days to come.

For now, I bid you adieu. Thank goodness my body is running on UAE time now so I can sleep when everyone else does. :)

Here it goes...

I've gotten the Egypt part of my trip all logged...and it's long! On my flight home, I tried to capture as much as I could in a notebook while things were fresh in my mind, while experiences were still new and I wouldn't forget as many details. So, here's the five days I spent in Egypt; each day gets its own post, so it's broken up. Look forward to the rest of Abu Dhabi/Dubai, too!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Getting back into the swing of things...

Ok, so I know I haven't posted much about my trip, but never fear! I've been trying to keep a log on my laptop throughout the trip, and it'll make it on here in the next few days, complete with pictures and hopefully video and stuff, too.

After thirteen days, 7 flights (that equaled about 45 plane hours...whew!), I got in last night. My awesome friend Ben came and picked me up at the airport and even went the extra mile (or several miles, in fact) and took me to go see my new niece (first one!) who was born on Monday.

She's so tiny! They named her Isabelle. And she is healthy as can be, as far as they can tell. Yay!

Then I didn't get home until about 11:30ish and not actually into bed until 12:15ish...but I'm surprisingly not doing too badly! I'm trying to drink lots of water and I'm not allowing myself to sleep a lot when I get home from work. We'll see how that works...

As I've been coming down off the vacation high, I've been realizing the things I love about vacation, but also the day-to-day things that I missed here while I was gone.

Vacation loves:

  1. Sleeping in, for the most part...or at least getting to take naps whenever the fancy strikes
  2. Seeing new things and taking it all in; I sure got pushed out of my comfort zone, but it's nice once in awhile!
  3. No cell phone to keep track of. Did I miss a call? I have a friend who tells me I'm attached to my phone...and she's right! But for two weeks, I did without, and it was kind of refreshing!
  4. I didn't have to drive one fact, I was waited on quite a lot. Man, my sister and bro-in-law are awesome!
  5. Eating whatever I much of it as I wanted...and then walking the majority of it off running around to sights and shopping.
  6. Not having to go to work (I mean, don't get me wrong; my job is great. But with any job, a vacation is a must!) and getting paid for it!
  7. The warmth. 80 degrees just about every day, no clouds.
  8. Looking at myself in the mirror and not caring that much that I didn't look perfect (I know, I know, I should be that way all the time!) Everyone kept telling me how beautiful I was, though. What an ego boost!
  9. Laughing at the silly things my nephews would say, even when they were in a bad mood...
  10. Talking with my sister about life and getting to know my bro-in-law better.

...and now that I'm home, I realize some of the things I missed while I was away:

  1. The mountains. Driving to lunch today, I looked up and realized that they are something!
  2. My straightening iron...or regular electrical outlets, for that matter.
  3. People who speak English...all the time (yeah, yeah...don't think I hate the Arabic language...and not like I was expecting them to just pander to my linguistic needs...)
  4. My lovely bed.
  5. Drinking enough water--once I got doing things on vacation, it was just not the foremost thing on my mind.
  6. My regular tv shows. (Yay for a TiVo!)
  7. Pie day on the 14th. Those usually hold such good memories for me!
  8. Actually knowing how much I'm paying for something. The dirham (UAE's currency) is 3.67 to our dollar. Try doing the math in your hurts, doesn't it?
  9. Freedom...and for a small part, safety.
  10. My friends and family here in Utah, most of the main driving forces that got me back to the US.

So here I am, back to the daily grind, hopefully with a little more spring in my step. And I'll try to get the trip posts on here ASAP! (Warning: they are of epic proportion...for those of you who received "the epic" email when we were sophomores in high school, you will realize that I have outdone myself on the log I've kept!)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Abu Dhabi - Day 2

Jetlag over. I feel like a Middle Easterner already! Ok, ok, not was evidenced by my painfully white legs when we went to the beach today...

This morning I woke up at 7:00. I must have fooled my body pretty well because I didn't make it much past 8:45 last night. Laura and I sat down to watch a movie, and even though my chair wasn't that conducive to sleep, sleep I did...when you're that tired, you sleep wherever you can. She didn't have the heart to wake me and thank goodness. When I got up this morning and saw light, I was quite pleased at myself for not having woken up in the middle of the night. I'm gussing it's somewhat akin to having a kid sleep through the night as a parent. How lovely. And as interesting as my sleeping patterns are...

Today I got to play with the boys. They are so adorable. Sometimes they don't listen, but they are cute, and I love them. Jameson keeps asking me about the "gift" I brought for him. Really it's just some toys and coloring books I brought for him and Avery to have for the plane ride we have tomorrow. And Avery and I had a smiling contest at the grocery store today. I tell you, you could be in the worst mood or feeling awful, and that kid smiles at'd make your day. This was right after his nap, so he was chatty and pleasant. Beforehand it was more like screaming and tough to be two. :)

Laura had a doctor's appointment today (she's five months pregnant), so I stayed with the kids while she went. It took longer than she thought, but that was ok. We went and played outside (so warm!) and watched Babe (well, they watched the movie while I read my book). Then we headed to the beach. It was the perfect day for a beach excursion because it was about 80 degrees and the water was cool and it wasn't too crowded...Oh! And in case you're wondering what we were doing at the beach and the grocery store on Sunday, let me explain: In Arabian nations, the Sabbath is observed on Friday, so Sunday is like a Monday. They work Sunday through Thursday, go to church on Friday, Saturday is like a normal Saturday and then back to work on Sunday. Different, indeed. Anyway...back to the beach. The boys were hilarious. Jameson doesn't like being wet, but he kept running into the ocean. When he was done with that, he came up to Laura and started ripping off his swimming suit, right there. Laura tried talking him into staying covered up, but finally they came to a compromise where he could kind of half take off his suit and there was a backpack shielding his bare bum from the rest of the beach-goers. That kid has a mind of his own. The rest of the beach trip was great, including when Jameson kept trying to use his pail full of water to "find the treasure" (treasure=my toes, in the sand). It was a fun game. I got some sun, but it's been awhile for that (considering the 5 months of snow we've had back in Utah), and it felt great.

Later on this afternoon we went to the Carrefour, a French Wal-Mart type store. We had some essentials to get before we head out to Egypt early tomorrow morning. This place is huge, with multiple levels and everything. It has these escalators that aren't stairs, just ramps, and you can even wheel your cart right on. There must be some sort of pressure locks or something on the cart's wheels because that thing won't budge once you're on the escalator. And with two kids in the cart, that's probably a good idea. :) I found some cute capris for 25 dirham (about $7.50), so I bought them, and they fit great! Also, it was extremely intriguing to see some of the same things you see in the U.S., but also some very strange things like the spices you can buy by the kilo and dates (the fruit...yeah, like I could find actual dates?) galore.

Tomorrow we go to Egypt, and I'm not sure how much I'll be able to post from there, but I'll try to keep a day-to-day log on my computer and get it on here when we return...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Abu Dhabi - Day 1

I made it (as evidenced by my diatribe of a last posting on this here blog)! The plane ride from JFK to the UAE was longer than anyone should have to survive (and the one on the way back is even longer!), but it was completely worth it!

Highlights of the day:
  • Seeing Laura and Matt and the kids. Those kids are hilarious. I'm sure I'll have plenty of stories to tell on here at a later point...too tired now...
  • Going to the Heritage Village. The artisans weren't there, but I got to see a camel and got a picture of it!...will post later. :)
  • Marina Mall...the biggest mall pretty much anywhere. This thing had EVERYTHING imaginable there. We went to a perfumery where they sell traditional perfumes. I thought one of them smelled gross. So I'm an uncultured swine.
  • Emirates Palace Hotel. President Bush stayed there while he was visiting the country. It's a 7-star hotel that has a lunch buffet for about $60USD. That's a BUFFET. Wow.
  • Buying fabric. I found some awesome tapestry fabric for about $3/yd. That's a steal. I don't know why I even thought twice about it.

Well, I will get some pictures on here in a day or two and try to keep posting about what's going on here. Lots of fun and hopefully more sleep to come!


I always wondered what people were talking about when they said they had "jetlag." I mean, I knew what the term meant, but I had never truly experienced it. Until today...

When I was seventeen, I traveled to Europe. Sure, it was a long, arduous journey on a flight to Frankfurt, but I handled it fairly well. I don't remember doing anything special, so maybe I was just lucky. I was a little sleepy the first day, but after that, things were a go for the new time zone.

Well, things must have changed in the last eight years...(dang that change thing!) I got off the plane this morning after almost 24 hours of traveling and my body said, "Hey, it's 8:00 at night...this sun thing shouldn't be shouldn't be eating breakfast." And yet, eat breakfast I did. And spend the entire day soaking up the sights and smells and sounds and family time...I sure did it all. I don't regret it in the slightest.

I do regret the fact that my body is ready to be at work at this current juncture. Or at the very least, waking up to a usually productive Saturday morning at my house. Sleep sounds soooooo good right now, though. Oh bliss. Only an hour more until I can put myself to sister has been catching me after dinner almost asleep on Jameson's bed or on the couch before we went fabric shopping. It's good that I have her here, already time-adjusted, so that she can help me as I become accustomed to it all.

The one thing I didn't realize about jetlag before is that it's an actual LAG. Currently, my brain feels about three seconds behind my body. When I walk, it's like my brain is swimming, but not fast enough to keep up. Feels like I've been on a cruise ship and I'll be needing time to get my land legs again. Laura says it goes away after about a week...I'm crossing my fingers for faster!