Friday, February 8, 2013

The New Normal

This is a blog I started before our trip to Thailand .. I know, sorry!!!  I haven't been as excited about blogging because things just feel so "normal" now .. we've settled .. it's "home" .. and we're really beginning to enjoy Dubai .. kinks included!  Here's what I began a few months ago, I'll close'r out at the end ..

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Ya know .. it's really feeling "normal" now.  Remember when we first moved here back at the start of the new year and I kept saying how I was just ready for things to feel "normal"?  I have to say that it's really starting to.

I mean, it's totally normal to see gardeners in green coveralls riding their bikes through the neighborhood, rake and mower in tow .. I mean, they're everywhere.  It's very normal to see Filipino, Sri Lankan, or Ethiopian maids/nannies walking with children to the park or running errands for their "madams".  Honestly, I think it would seem very strange to NOT see those things ..

More "normal" things:


-Describing people by their skin, as I did above.  In the USA that feels racist .. but here it seems to be a very normal way of describing people.  It's not racist.  It's more of a recognition of the culture from which each of these people come.  If their culture is acknowledged, there is much more of a way to understand what that person may be like.  It only feels racist if someone is degrading an entire group of people. It's different .. and normal.
-Going to the mall and seeing a much of the crowd in full coverings (burqas and dishdashes). 
-Driving to school in the minivan with a Maserati, Ferrari, Land Rover and Porsche surrounding me (no lie people .. that happens ALL.THE.TIME).
-kids getting tired of yet ANOTHER birthday party at Atlantis, The Palm .. (that hasn't happened to my kids yet, but definitely a theme of friends' kiddos .. and if it's not The Atlantis .. it's one of the 200 indoor playlands .. and parties always have face painting, crafts, games, petting zoos .. I mean, you name it .. it's there).
-NOT being able to get a glass of wine with dinner unless we're in a hotel
-going to coffee with a friend that I met 10 minutes ago.
-being able to leave my house at any given moment and merely saying, "Vilma .. please watch the kids, I'm headed to the store." <--okay, that may never feel normal .. but it IS normal, and something I do at least once a week.
-Mark traveling about every other week.   He was in Prague earlier this month, is currently in Oman, and will be going to Thailand next week .. then he's off to Saudi and then Kazakhstan .. for REAL people.  The man travels.  I will say that I'm SUPER PUMPED that the Trip to Thailand is a FAMILY VACATION!!  woo hoo!!  I CAN'T WAIT to blog about that one!

So I could definitely go on .. the sandy air feels normal, the heat feels normal, people being SUPER FRIENDLY to kids EVERYWHERE we go (and it not feeling creepy) feels normal .. I know I'm not writing it all.

My sister is coming to visit soon and it's going to be so cool to see Dubai through her eyes .. I'm sure her perspective will remind me of what the differences are - ya know? 

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Okay, so that was the old blog .. my sister came and LOVED it here .. we had a great time .. here are some pictures:

 ski dubai


 getting ready to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa!  
(The tallest building in the world)


 enjoying sunset on the dessert safari
 look at her holding that Falcon!  
(Falcons are a big deal out here)

 no doubt we rode some camels!


Isn't she cute??  We had such a good time!!  Karen - move here! 

So much has happened since I began this blog so long ago .. after Karen left,  then Mark's parents came for Christmas (which is another blog all together.. we had a blast!) ... now we're back in full swing of the 2nd semester of school and planning our Spring Break vacation.  (It's looking like we're going to London/Paris!!  woo hoo!!)  

We've also found a fantastic new church .. it has made all the difference for our family.   It's close to home and many of the people that we run into in other circles attend there.  I really love that we found Fellowship of the Emirates! Tonight we are having the new pastor (from Australia) and his family over for dinner .. we're going to light up the fire pit and roast weenies!!

 ... OH .. did I mention that we moved to a new villa??? long "only in Dubai" story ..but it has a pool .. and a fire pit .. I love it!! 

I'll eventually get caught up .. I will!!!   

...till next time!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

THAILAND!!!

WE WENT TO THAILAND!!!!!

At the end of October, the kids had a week off of school for a Muslim holiday called Eid (<--you can click that word if you would like to know what Eid is!) so we decided to take a little trip!!  There are about 100 pictures in this blog, so I'm going to keep the writing short .. I'll let the pictures tell the story ..
When we arrived in Chiang Mai, Matthee, our driver picked us up in this fancy van! 


(notice where the steering wheel is!!)


  
 Mathee brought us to The Oriental Siam Resort (<--click) .. this was the front door to our bungalow.  It had 2 bedrooms, 2 baths and a front foyer ... plenty of room! 

We spent the first few hours hanging at the pool at the resort

Then we decided to check out the Temple on the mountain .. it was amazing!! 



These precious little girls were charging money for pictures .. many of the people, including their parents, had stands selling jewelry, food, etc. etc. on the road leading to the temple.

We were starving after seeing the temple, so we headed into town for some Thai food!

This was a red curry with seafood served in a coconut shell.  YUM.  (This was my favorite meal of the entire trip). 

The kids did a great job being adventurous with their food.  Here is Brooke tasting some noodle soup.  Most of the restaurants had chicken nuggets, spaghetti, and cheeseburgers for the kiddos too. 

Next we hit the night market (yes, still on day ONE!!)


I love Paige's face .. this lady was pushing hard to sell us a bracelet .. we walked away! 

At the night market, I bought a purse and some jewelry, the kids got some unique toys, and Mark went to a tailor and got custom made suits, shirts and a couple of ties.  Things were very inexpensive there, so we had a ball shopping!




The next day, Mathee took us to some of the local vendors .. we got to see some really cool stuff!!  Check this out:

 
Our first stop was at a place where they make these umbrellas .. see the paints set up?  We saw, from start to finish, how these are made.  

Here, the girls are helping pound down the tree bark with mallets. 

Max helped too!  :) 
(The bark is then boiled and strained .. then when it dries, the paper is peeled from the strainer .. It was super cool to see the whole process).

Here is an assembly line of women making the "skeleton" of the umbrellas

Family photo op!!  


Next stop:  Thai Silk Factory

The crew is checking out the caterpillars that make SILK!

close up shot of the caterpillars

This woman is boiling cocoons and pulling threads from them .. it was soo cool to watch her work!


Thai silk shop


Next stop:  silver factory
This man is making silver jewelry

These are stones attached to wooden pegs .. we watched a woman rub the stones on a cloth until they were shiney .. I had never seen this done before .. very interesting! 


Next stop:  ZIP LINE!!!  (Yup, still day 2!)


Max was in HEAVEN .. he couldn't get enough!!  He'd land after zooming down the ziplines and beg to go again .. he was SO fun to be with on this trip!!  (We were hoping he'd like it, because it truly could have gone either way!!) 

Brooke, of COURSE, was all about it too .. 

And Paige was a total rock star!


I had to throw this pic in too .. he'll be 3 on Nov 30th .. WHAT KID DOES THIS??  SO FUN!

After zip lining, we headed back to the resort for dinner and SLEEP!!  No doubt about it, we all slept GOOD!! 



Day 3: ELEPHANTS!!!
I don't even know where to begin .. this was an incredible experience. 

We arrived at Patara Elephant Farm in the morning and were ready to be "elephant owners for a day."

We were quickly greeted by this little 10 month old baby elephant. :)


After listening to some instruction, we were introduced to our elephants for the day and their trainers. 


Brooke and I got a Momma elephant and her baby for the day.. SOO COOL!! 


Paige got her very own elephant.  SHE.WAS.IN.HEAVEN!!!!

We fed them .. 





We made sure they were healthy .. we checked for sleep patterns on their skin, sweat marks on their TOENAILS, wagging tails, flapping ears, and here in this picture, Brooke smelling some poop!!  (For those of you that know Brooke, this picture is AMAZING isn't it??? ha ha ha ha ha!!! .. and just so ya know, it isn't stinky! TMI???)


we brushed off the dirt ...

gave them some water to drink...

 
See how Max is filling up the elephant's trunk?  It was so fun!
 
Then we sprayed/cooled them off!


Then it was time to ride them down to the river/waterfalls to give them a good bath! 
(The shirts we are all wearing were to help the elephants recognize us as "good guys")




This is Paige in her element.  I love this for her .. 

Brooke and I on our momma .. see the baby trailing closely behind?  
(I am very glad that we did this, but I did not love riding that huge animal!!) 


The next set of pictures speak for themselves ... absolutely incredible. 








When the elephants were all clean, they got to "get us back" by spraying us!!  ha ha! 

We took a little break before heading back to the farm ... check out the spread! 
It was a bunch of thai sweets, fruits, and yes those are fried chicken drumsticks .. the green pouches (next to the water bottles) were different foods with rice wrapped in banana leaves.  It was really fun and we all loved it! 




Paige got a hug from her elephant before we got in the van to head back ...

On the way back we stopped at the nursery to meet the new babies.  This baby was (I think?) 6 weeks old .. sooo cute! 

He was a friendly little guy too!! 

a good match for Max-man??  :)  

This baby was 10 DAYS old and the first time it was allowed to meet tourists.

Max got a special kiss from the baby .. can you see the dirt on his lips?? ha ha ha ha!!


This elephant was pregnant and ready to give birth at any time .. Paige and I are feeling the baby move!  It was unbelievable!  

That was the end of our elephant encounter.  It was unforgettable for sure!!  We headed back to the resort....

AAAAND, true to form, Paige lost a tooth!! 


The Tooth Fairy in Thailand brought her 100 bat (about $3) and a note written in Thai .. pretty cool eh?  What a fun way to end our time in Chiang Mai! 


On Day 4, we were off to Phuket!  
(Pronounced "Poo-ket" you freaks! ha ha!)


a driver from our resort was there to pick us up .. I had to get a picture .. I felt like a movie star or something!  

we threw on our suits and headed straight to the beach!  BEAUTIFUL! 

next, HAPPY HOUR!  :)



  



Day 5 .. waterpark! 
Our hotel had a waterpark in it, so we spent the day playing, playing PLAYING! 
 
 



Day 6:  SNORKELING! 
 






video
Here is a video of the girls snorkeling and Max trying to take it all in from Daddy's arms .. this was another highlight of the trip for me .. I just kept saying, "I can't believe I'm snorkeling with my kids in Thailand!!"

 That night we went down to a really pretty part of Phuket called Laguna and ate dinner at a fun restaurant on the beach ...
Beautiful Paige and her fancy carrot.  :)

my dinner .. crab curry that was ALMOST too spicy to eat and the crab was still in its shell.  boo.  but pretty to look at eh?  :) 

Mark's lobster .. 

This isn't the lobster that Mark ate, but Mark's was in a tank with this guy when we walked in (next to the tank w/ my crab!)  

Before dinner, we all went on a quick walk on the beach .. the kids were racing the waves (you know, getting as close as they could to the waves as they recede and then RUNNING away as they come back in?  Well, Max lost and got SOAKED so we bought him this fancy outfit at one of the stands on the beach.  I LOVE IT!) 

The girls got creative with their skewers at dinner .. these "people" had names and everything :)



The next (and last) day was Halloween.  The girls got to trick-or-treat with the Kids Club at the resort.  As you can imagine, Halloween was not a big deal in Thailand, but it was nice that the girls got to do a little something.  Max and Daddy napped that afternoon.  It was a good, low-key day.  :)  




We spent the last evening by the pool... here is the sunset from where we sat: 


And that was Thailand ... I'm exhausted.  Are you??  

..till next time. :)