Cruising Down the Rhine: Germany and France

After leaving dock in Amsterdam, our Rhine River cruise made stops in three German cities—Cologne, Rüdesheim, and Heidelberg—and two stops in the French cities of Strasbourg and Riquewihr.

Cologne, as you could likely guess, is known for its most famous product, “Eau de Cologne.” The original fragrance was developed in the 18th century under the brand name “4711” and has been worn by many royals including Napoleon and Princess Diana. Our tour guide let us sample the fragrance from the flagship Farina store, named after the cologne’s inventor, and then led us to other notable city landmarks including Roman-era structures and St. Peter’s Cathedral which reputedly houses the remains of the three magi.

Rüdesheim’s quaint charm provided an idyllic Christmas Eve setting with shops selling hand-crafted Christmas ornaments and cafes serving Rüdesheimer coffee. The coffee treat was made right in front of us by our server. She started with Asbach brandy, a speciality of the local area, mixed it with sugar, and set it on fire to caramelize the sugars and burn off part of the alcohol. She added coffee and topped it off with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

On our way back to the ship we encountered a small band playing Silent Night from one of the town’s castle remnants, a pretty perfect ending to a relaxing day.

Heidelberg was our last stop in Germany. The city sits at the base of Renaissance-style castle ruins on the Neckar River. We spent time exploring the castle ruins and then descended into town to visit one of the season’s last Christmas markets.

The last two stops on our cruise were made in Strasbourg and Riquewihr, France. Overcast skies and sprinkles of rain met us in France, but it didn’t dampen our experience one bit.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam Windmill

Traditional Dutch Windmill

Last summer my husband and I toured Scandinavia with our trip starting in Helsinki, Finland and ending in Bergen, Norway. The flight to Finland left us with a 6 hour layover in Amsterdam, a city I had never visited. We made our way downtown to explore the streets, dodging bikes as we went, and stopped at a hot dog stand for refreshment (an exciting event in our mostly pork-less Middle Eastern lives). Between the touristy trinket shops and an unsettling run-in with a man who took unwanted interest in us, I was less than impressed with the city. When we hopped on the train headed back to the airport I remember saying I wouldn’t be coming back to Amsterdam in the future. So naturally, a few months later I was planning our visit to Amsterdam. Naturally. Our Christmas river cruise on the Rhine departed from that very city, so we planned to arrive two days early, primarily to ensure that a delayed flight wouldn’t make us miss embarkation. I think the pictures speak for our second experience, and after spending a fleeting two days in Amsterdam, I can only say it wasn’t enough time.

Travel Lessons: My Normal Isn’t the Only Normal

My Normal Isn't the Only Normal

I flew on an airplane for the first time when I was 18. My brother and two friends traveled with me to New York City. I can’t remember why we picked New York as our destination or why we decided to go in January when bitter cold temperatures seized the northeast. I do remember confetti littered on the ground, left over from New Year’s Eve celebrations and the wind that cut between skyscrapers and stung my skin. I also remember clutching my purse in protection against pickpockets who could spot us a mile away thanks to brightly colored winter wear that contrasted with a sea of New Yorkers donned in black and gray.

We zipped around from one touristy hot spot to the next, seeing everything from a Broadway play to the Statue of Liberty and even securing seats in the audience of a David Letterman show.

Aside from just enjoying the sights, the trip opened my eyes to see that a lot of life happens outside of my little bubble. As silly or naive as it sounds, I walked around New York processing the fact that thousands of people called that very spot home, and it was so very different from my own concept of home. The scenery I was taking in as fresh and exciting would be considered simply commonplace to its residents. My normal isn’t the only normal.

The second time I flew in an airplane, I was a college student headed to Italy for a month-long photography course. If New York City was eye-opening, Europe was mind-blowing. The art, the architecture, and the picturesque places that are “normal” for Italians created sensory overload for this Southern suburban dweller. Watching Italians around me, I wondered how they could walk down the cobblestone streets seemingly unaffected by the beauty around them: Michelangelo’s David, melt-in-your-mouth pastas, the music of church bells, and pristine gardens. Thinking of the places I have lived, I do know it’s easy to take certain things for granted. It’s easy to miss what’s right in front of you if it’s always been there.

Since moving to Abu Dhabi, we’ve traveled frequently, and while I still jump at any travel opportunity, the sparkle and newness of exploring different cities has somewhat faded since that first trip to New York. During this period I’m considering why I value travel. Traveling can create uncomfortable or challenging situations, but more often it’s exhilarating and awe-inspiring. My experiences have taught me that God’s creation is beautiful, that the world is huge and I occupy only a very small piece of it, that the sun and sky and moon looks much the same wherever you are, and that my home is a very special place. When I planned my trip to Italy, I remember thinking that when I’m old and gray I would rather have the memories of Italy in my mind than the few thousand dollars it cost in my bank account. The memories I’ve accumulated of places far and wide are valuable to me, but I think that value would be diminished if I didn’t have a place on this earth to call home, where I belong.

I haven’t been to the United States in almost two years, and I’m anticipating my reaction to my own homecoming. In one regard, I expect things to be as they always were. On the other hand, I know that traveling has changed my perspective, so I’m excited to see what new beauty and value I find in my own home town.

My New Love: Afternoon Tea

I don’t have any grandiose stories to share, just a few pictures for posterity’s sake. On Friday we slept in laaate and had lunch at Nolu’s followed by a bit of exploring at Dalma Mall which just *happened* to lead to the purchase of 2 new dresses. Thank you H&M. Here and here….just kidding, couldn’t find the second one online. But the first one is cute, no?

Saturday included morning by the pool and a proper Afternoon Tea. I capitalize this because Afternoon Tea is not simply tea in the afternoon. Au contraire, Afternoon Tea, according to this website, is “a meal composed of sandwiches (usually cut delicately into ‘fingers’), scones with clotted cream and jam, sweet pastries and cakes. Interestingly, scones were not a common feature of early Afternoon Tea and were only introduced in the twentieth century.”

Afternoon Tea is not to be confused with High Tea, but actually, researching the subject just now does lead me into a bit of confusion. Apparently High Tea means different things to different people and it depends on what part of the world you are in. Afternoon Tea and High Tea have different history’s, originated in different classes of society, and served different purposes. I won’t ramble on about it, but all I know is that what I ate and drank was delicious. (Fun fact – I lost the school spelling bee in the 4th grade to the word “delicious”. Darn that second “i”!)

Afternoon Tea, you haven’t seen the last of me!

Weekend in Oman

On Thursday night Josh and I packed our bags and headed out for a relaxing mini vacation in Ras Al Khaima. Josh is on spring break from school, and because we hadn’t yet seen much of UAE outside of our Abu Dhabi hometown, I planned a trip to visit the country’s northernmost emirate. We arrived in Ras Al Khaima on Thursday night, did a little exploring around our hotel, ate dinner, and turned in with a 6:30 a.m. alarm set for the next day.

Here comes a side story because I reminded myself of something else in that last sentence. It happens. Do you think that “turning in” is a Southern phrase? Josh and I watched the movie Mud last week which was really good. You should add it to your Netflix watch list now. I’ll wait. The family lives in Mississippi, and in one scene the mother asks her son (imagine this said with a Southern twang), “Are you hungry? Want me to fix you somethin’? Alright then, I’m gonna turn in.” (That isn’t an exact quote; I’m going from memory here.) Josh deemed the phrases “fix you somethin'” and “turn in” as two distinctively Southern phrases. What do you think? I’m not a good judge of these things.

Back to my weekend story… Friday morning came and we set off for Khasab, Oman, the starting point of our dhow cruise. What is a dhow cruise, you ask? Is that anything like a show cruise where the author (me) accidentally types a letter “d” instead of “s”? Yes, I can see how you might think that, but then you would be wrong. This is how Wikipedia explains it: “Dhow (Arabic داو dāw) is the generic name of a number of traditional sailing vessels with one or more masts with lateen sails used in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean region.” I’m sure that cleared things up for you.

Driving through Ras Al Khaima on the way to Oman introduced me to a setting like I had never encountered before. Goats and cows roamed freely. The cows particularly took a liking to the medians of the four-lane roads. At times I could have reached my hand out of the driver’s side window to pet a bull. Half-constructed buildings littered the sides of the roads. Scrap metal and mud and tarnished signs in arabic finished off the landscape. Unique indeed.

Arriving at the UAE/Oman border, we spent a few minutes waiting for stamps and watched goats inch closer to the guards standing post outside, probably in hopes of receiving a morsel of food. The goats that is, not the guards. I wish I had pictures of these scenes; however, pictures taken from the inside of a car never turn out like you hope, and since photography isn’t allowed at the border checkpoints I have nothing to show from that experience either.

The drive along the coast in Oman was stunningly beautiful. Craggy mountains rose to our right with a sheer drop to the turquoise sea on our left. The hairpin turns in combination with the scenery made it the perfect location for a car commercial (listen up you ad men). After an hour in the car we found the building with a sign for our dhow cruise company, Musandam Sea Adventure Travel and Tourism, in a strip mall. An Omani man appeared to be directing the parking of cars. I rolled down my window and he asked,

“Are you going out on a cruise?”
“Yes, with the sea adventure company. [pointing to the sign]”
“Oh no no no. They no good. You should come with me.”
“Well, we’re already booked with them. Sorry.”
“Already booked? Well I give you my card and next time you come with me.”
“Okay. [being friendly and accepting his business card]”
Card reads, “Abdulfattah Bin Ahmed Al Shehi, Chairman, Musandam Sea Adventure Travel and Tourism [the company we booked with]”
Me: “Oh you’re messing with me!”
“Hahaha. Follow me and I will take you to the harbor.”

I start up our car and follow him. Along the way, Josh and I comment to one another about the unorthodoxy (yes, that’s a word according to MW) of the situation. We were blindly following some guy we just met through some curvy roads and more herds of goats to a boat. After 6 months in UAE we’ve come to expect the unexpected! We park between two little fishing boats in the mud because it recently rained and appeared as though it would again in the near future. It turns out that the Omani man was the owner of the dhow cruise company. We waited for the other customers (we learned that many German people vacation in this part of the world) while we drank Arabic coffee and delicious tea – black tea flavored with cardamom, saffron, and rose water.

Enjoying tea while waiting to begin our dhow cruise

Enjoying tea while waiting to begin our dhow cruise

Our boat cruised along the Strait of Hormuz while we strained to see the Iranian land mass across the water (we never saw it) and then explored the Oman fjords.

Our boat left from Khasab and snaked its way among the fjords

Our boat left from Khasab and snaked its way among the fjords

These are some of the views from our ship. We also saw a number of dolphins as they came up for air and splashed about.

Lunch!

Lunch!

We dropped anchor to feast on a lunch of rice, curry vegetables, salad, chicken, naan, and hummus. And of course more tea! After lunch many of us napped as the sound of the water lulled us to sleep. By the time the cruise ended, I felt completely relaxed and tranquil – the desired aftereffects of the perfect mini vacation!

Breaking the Silence

Yes, I admit I’ve been procrastinating. For a while I was depending on urges to write and record our stories in the middle east. And then something happened – nothing. Life took on a sense of normality and apart from working and shopping, I didn’t store up good stories for sharing. Then by the time lots of exciting things started happening again, I was already out of the writing routine and somewhat ashamed that my commitment to blogging was shaken.

Now it’s February and we’ve celebrated Christmas in Germany, rang in the New Year in freezing temperatures, and learned a new thing or two about living in Abu Dhabi. My list of topics to write about seems too daunting to tackle, so for now I’ll just tell you about what happened Wednesday afternoon. The experience was ridiculous enough to make me break out the proverbial pen, so I hope my lamenting over lost blog posts hasn’t lost your attention.

To start my Wednesday night story, I’ll go back to November because you should know that’s how long I’ve been waiting to receive my residence documentation. In November we started the long and odious process of submitting paperwork, paying money, and waiting with ticket numbers crumpled in our hands in DMV-like settings. I say “we” but really Dear Husband did the majority of the grunt-work, for which I am ever so grateful. Getting to the good news – a few weeks ago I received my official residence visa, and although it states my occupation as “house wife,” (boo) I’m as happy as a clam that I don’t have to worry about walking across the border any more (ah yes, let me add that to my list of topics to write about: “The Walk to Oman…”). After my visa was issued, I received my Emirates ID. Now we’re all done, right? Well, almost. As a visitor in this country, one is free to rent a car with just a passport and US driver’s license. Once a resident, the UAE driver’s license is required. Right now we taxi everywhere, and while that’s okay, I’d feel much more independent if I could drive around and explore the city on my own. With the expectation that we would at some point want or need a car, we decided to get it over with and obtain our driver’s licenses.

Dear Husband learned that an American driver’s license could simply (ahem, simply?) be transferred to acquire the UAE license. Step 1 – translate the American driver’s license into arabic. Dear Husband had already accomplished this step before I arrived in Abu Dhabi, so I went off to the mall to wait an hour and pay about $35 for the translation. Step 2 – head to the Department of Transport to present all sorts of documentation like copies of IDs and passports and, of course, the paper with our driver’s license information translated into arabic which, by the way, certifies “that the enclosed translation is correction and identical to the original text.” (Italics are mine.) This instills confidence. Step 3 – take a number and wait.

Okay, that’s really all the steps. Next we go to the counter and hand over our stuff. The lady muddles about for a bit and enters some things in the computer. She then confers with a co-worker before turning to us and declaring the translation “no good.” What? Really? What’s wrong with it? (the language barrier was really a problem in this case.) Her:  It doesn’t say what car you want.

Us:  Oh we don’t want a car right now. We just want the license so that maybe we can get a car in the future.

Her:  It has to say what kind of car. Big car. Little car. Truck.

Us: (with very quizzical looks on our faces) We want to be able to drive any car. Or just, you know, a normal car. Like any car on the road.

Her:  The paper has to say. This no good. (pointing to our translated copies) Please go see Yosef (pointing to a co-worker)

Us:  Okay…

Him: (reviews our papers) This doesn’t say what kind of car you want.

Us:  (frustration mounting) Any car?! Maybe a small car? If it doesn’t say it on the translated paper, it’s because it doesn’t say it on our original driver’s license. Why would an American driver’s license say I can only drive a big car or any sort of specific automobile?

Him:  The paper has to say. Go see translation services. That way.

Us:  But this is the translated copy. Wouldn’t another translation just say the very same thing?

Him:  Please go that way.

Le sigh. Off we go to see someone else. By this point, Dear Husband has figured out that they’ve interpreted the “Class: None,  Endorsements: None” on our licenses to mean that we can’t drive any car. He explains this to the translation man and he takes us back to the original counter while he has a chat in arabic. That must have been the issue because they seemed to have resolved something among themselves. We follow the translation man back to this office where he begins typing up new papers, but in the middle of the process, he stands up and excuses himself. Dear Husband peeks at the screen and sees the man had been looking at an arabic Wikipedia site. Not a good sign. However, he returns, types types types, prints and voila! now we have new papers that are certified exact copies of our licenses but actually say something somewhat different since these were okay and the previous ones weren’t. IDK. (Are you confused? At least a little? I hope so because I surely was.) Back we go again to the original counter, and this time we have success although the lady again asked me what kind of car we have. We. Don’t. Have. A. Car. We need a license first. She didn’t really like this answer but continued about her business anyway. The result? Two new shiny licenses. I shouldn’t complain; no eyesight tests or driving tests required!

After all that fun, we decided we still wanted some more and headed to the utility company to get our electricity and water bill account set up. Now, don’t look at me funny. I know we’ve been living here for months, but up until a few days ago, no one told us we needed to have an account or even pay for these things. I won’t drag you through that whole story too, but in a nutshell: we waited, we discovered that one of the papers from Dear Husband’s employer had expired because it was printed in April 2013 (??!!), and we were told to return home, call a phone number, wait 2 days, come back, and try again. We don’t know why, but we do as we’re told! Most of the time.

I don’t have a picture to share with you from that whole experience, so here’s us back in January bundled up in the freezing German weather. I look at this and sympathize with all our American friends back home who have endured this cold, snowy winter!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s turkey week, but I only believe that because of the date on my calendar. My internal sense of the season is completely thrown off by consistent 80+ degree weather and the small number other Americans who mention anything of Thanksgiving. Things have been relatively uneventful around here for a while, primarily because Josh and I have been swapping colds back and forth rendering us unable (or at least unwilling) to do much venturing forth from home.

In the midst of my illness, Josh convinced me to go to the doctor. I was reluctant given my lack of insurance and skepticism about the quality of medical expertise here (despite what I keep hearing and reading). There is a hospital right across the street from our apartment, so choosing a place to go was simple. I walked in without an appointment and was with a nurse before 5 minutes had passed. She took my blood pressure, weight, and asked me some questions including whether I was allergic to anything. “Yes, sulfa drugs.” “What?” “Um, sulfa drugs…” “What drugs?” “Sulfa.” “Oh, seel-fa.” Right. Yes. That American accent of mine can be such a hassle! I went back to the waiting room to sit for just a few more minutes while a nearby mother and child talked about me in arabic. They were probably saying how awful I looked, but hey, it is a doctor’s office after all, and I shouldn’t be expected to look my best. Now maybe it’s just me, but I think that if I was going to talk about someone in a language that the person didn’t know, I wouldn’t give it away by turning and looking and pointing.

Side story: when I went to the immigration office to get my visitor visa extended, some of the men behind the counter were clearly talking about me, and for the next 2 weeks I received phone calls from a guy who could barely speak English saying he wanted to be my “friend.” So perhaps that incident made me a bit more suspicious of people talking about me.

Back to the doctor’s office. I was called from the waiting room again and ushered into the doctor’s office, but guess what! It actually was the doctor’s office! He had his desk and computer and office furniture along with all the medical equipment, so unlike US doctor offices where you wait in a tiny room for the doctor appear, here he has no place to run. He spent about 3 minutes with me. Throat. Nose. Ears. Sinus infection and laryngitis. “I give you prescription.” And I’m out in the hallway again! Almost gave me whiplash. The pharmacy was about 30 steps away from the doctor’s office, and with pills in hand I walked back home…in the rain. And I live in the desert. Okay, just making sure the irony there was apparent.

Rainy day in Abu Dhabi

Rainy day in Abu Dhabi

Josh has been here since the end of August, and I’ve been here since the beginning of October. Since we’ve been here, there has hardly been a cloud in sight, but last week it rained for two or three days. Someone told me that it hadn’t rained so much in the last 2 1/2 years. I took a picture of a rain-soaked Abu Dhabi from our balcony.

In other news – John Piper came to our church last week, and I was so blessed to hear him preach. He has such passion and joy in Christ. If you haven’t heard about him before, you should check out his ministry website. He’s written a lot of books, some of which you can download for free from there.

During one of the first few weeks I was here, we visited Al Ain, saw the oasis, and walked through Al Jahili Fort which used to serve as a royal summer residence for the sheikh and later (in the 1950s) as a British military base. Here are some pictures!

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We’ve also been to the Emirates Palace, a lavish hotel with a gold ATM and the famous gold-flake cappuccino. We wondered about the safety of consuming a metal like gold while Josh sipped his “camelccino” – a cappuccino made with camel’s milk. It didn’t seem too different from a normal cappuccino although I did think it tasted a bit tangier! It turns out you can eat gold just fine as long as it has a pretty high carat. If it does, it’s  biologically inert and doesn’t react with anything in the body. It didn’t taste like anything, and I mostly just found it annoying that it stuck to my lipstick. It looked very pretty though and makes for a nice picture I can share.

Our Travels: Corniche, Grand Mosque, and Kentucky

Abu Dhabi

Josh was in Abu Dhabi for a month at the downtown Crowne Plaza before I arrived. From his hotel, he was able to venture out and easily explore the western part of the island. We now live on the eastern part of the island, and while heading downtown isn’t a chore, it also isn’t something we do on a daily basis. Two weekends ago, we hopped on a bus and headed westward to begin our day with a visit to the Corniche, a beautiful stretch of beach where city meets water.

We walked around during the heat of the day, and the only other people we saw were tourists or workers on break. Without bathing suits packed, we quickly sought the chilled sanctuary of Marina Mall. Malls are dotted across Abu Dhabi like Starbucks in NYC – they are everywhere, and the layout of one is just as confusing as the next. There are half-staircases leading to little sunken areas with tucked away restaurants; 5 floors, with 2 of them dedicated to parking; huge grocery stores taking the place of Macy’s or Sears. If you’re trying to find your car and you head down the wrong escalator to one of the lower levels of parking, you have to go back upstairs and try again. Regardless of their quirks, they have more perks than American malls too. Marina Mall holds an ice skating rink, a tall tower with rotating restaurants giving spectacular 360 views of the city, and offers more than 400 stores. Interestingly, Gap and other shops were putting out their winter wear collections consisting of furry vests, corduroy pants, and heavy duty sweaters. One shop clerk told Josh that yes, it gets cold in Abu Dhabi, a chilling 60 degrees at times! Banish the thought.

– Views from the Marina Mall tower, good eats in the rotating restaurant, and an indoor ice skating rink

After the Corniche and Marina Mall, we took the bus all the way back to our neck of the woods where the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque can be found – the largest mosque in UAE and the 8th largest mosque in the world. I was kindly asked to don a black red-riding hood outfit of sorts since no uncovered woman is allowed to enter. The lavishness of the building was truly spectacular – marble and crystal everywhere.

After the mosque, we walked back to our apartment and took a quick rest before continuing on down the road to experience the happening night life at….KFC, referred to by locals as simply “Kentucky.” Yes, apparently KFC is wildly popular for some unknown reason. Even at 9pm, the place was packed. After ordering, I left Josh to fend for our food (which consists of waving your receipt in front of a worker until they decide to pick you and then waiting while they figure out how to get food in your hands which may or may not be what you actually ordered. (I said 7Up, not Pepsi – they’re not even the same color guys.)) I do feel sorry for the people who work there (I find myself feeling sorry for many workers in this city) since they have to deal with mobs of people all day who demand their food and offer little thanks. In other fast food meal news – I saw a McDonald’s ad yesterday for the “McArabia Chicken.” I don’t think I’ll be trying that “local” meal anytime soon!

KFC is the place to be!

KFC is the place to be!

McDonald's remaining culturally relevant

McDonald’s remaining culturally relevant

Week 1 in the Books

I moved to Abu Dhabi one week ago, but it felt less like moving and more like embarking on a long vacation. I’m waiting for the permanence of the thing to settle in at some point, but for now, I keep expecting someone to announce that I now have to go home. It’s not because I don’t like Abu Dhabi or I’m ready to leave, but when you consider that I only brought 3 hefty suitcases with me, our apartment has a water-front location, and I hop aboard public transportation to go anywhere, you’ll begin to see the similarities between a relaxing vacation get-away and my new living situation.

As I reflect on my past week, I feel like I should have some grand lessons to share about this place and its culture. I fear I don’t have any of these deep insights, but I can tell you some of things that make this place great/weird/totally-the-same-but-completely-different-from-the-US.

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The refrigerator’s on/off switch (left). For those days when you want room-temperature milk and meat

1. Haven’t you always thought, “Man, I wish there was a way to accidentally turn off my refrigerator or hot water heater with the flip of a switch that I thought was for the lights?” Yes, well, be jealous because now I can. First of all, let’s just take a second to be amazed at how big these switches are. Forget those skinny little light switches in the US. These require far less dexterity and are therefore, of course, superior.

2. There’s a vegetable called a what? I really wish I had taken a picture at the grocery store when I ventured out by myself earlier this week. The produce section was overrun with all sorts of foreign foods. Spiky things from Thailand and really long yam/potato things from India sat situated between bell peppers from Holland, pineapples from Egypt, and locally grown celery. I didn’t have my wits about me to take a picture because I kept expecting the grocery police to jump out and seize me for having earlier smashed a bottle of BBQ sauce in the aisle. Yes, I did that. It wasn’t as grand and dramatic as raising a glass bottle above my head with a yell and smashing it to the ground with a flourish, but I did knock over a glass bottle on the bottom shelf that went “ker-plunk” onto the floor and looked perfectly fine until I went to pick it up and discovered it was cracked into two pieces. I looked up at the two nearby Indian stock boys with my most honest “I’m sorry!” face, but they only looked at me and then returned to their task. As I slipped out to the next aisle, I imagined that any foreign chatter I heard was about the clutzy American girl and the consequences I would be facing. A couple minutes later, I looked back down the aisle to see that all the evidence of my mishap had been cleared away. Grocery police avoided. This time.

3. All Pakistanis are not terrorists. Well of course not, you say. Why state the obvious? Only because one of them told me! I got in a taxi in downtown Abu Dhabi, hoping to find my way to the local Souk, a marketplace that sells everything from jewelry and local attire to tea and exotic perfumes. The taxi driver, noticing that I had no idea where I was going, asked me where I was from. “America,” I say, “Where are you from?” “Pakistan. [moment of silence] I’m not a terrorist.” Surprised, I say, “Oh, okay, well then I believe you.” If this were a serious comment, I might have taken pause to contemplate what it means that Pakistani people feel the need to clarify their anti-terrorist position to Americans. After a few more minutes of conversation, though, I found that he was a jolly sort that liked to joke and tease. He took me right to the Souk and showed me where to go to shop. I felt the knee-jerk reaction to buy all the pretty things I saw, thinking “I’m in this beautiful, foreign place. I surely need that jewelry to remember it by!” But then I reminded myself that I’m not just visiting. I’m living here, and I’ll see a lot more Souks and fancy jewelry before I leave.

Escalators inside the Central Market Souk

Escalators inside the Central Market Souk

4. In many ways, life is still the same. I work. I cook. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and dining with Josh’s teacher friends. Life is really good so far in Abu Dhabi!

Al Farah eatery, local fare, Omeir Bin Yousuf Mosque, view of the City from Sophia and Demetri’s apartment

Tick Tock Tick Tock…Ding!

The waiting is over. I have my plane ticket and I’m leaving for Abu Dhabi next Tuesday! Spending time with family in the interim has been great, but the anticipation of what comes next is huge. Josh has been there for 5 weeks now, and I’m ready to be with him again and see all the preparations he has made for me in our apartment. I’m sure the blog posts will pick up now that I’m actually going! But, I couldn’t resist sharing some of these pictures. Hopefully they portray a bit about what this wait has been like.

There was some of this...

There was some of this…

...and some of this...

…and some of this…

a good bit of this...

a good bit of this…

– then back to this…

and one of these!

and one of these!

Okay, so it wasn’t really that melancholy, but waiting for something big and exciting can become really tedious! Well, I’ll be there soon. Stay tuned!