Thursday, May 3, 2012

Kelly's Visit!

On April 18th, our first official visitor came!!  Kelly!!  yay!

Kelly and I have been "BFFs" since we were 13 .. In a lot of ways we are more like sisters .. we've been through a LOT of "life" together .. I'm so blessed by her friendship .. and her visit really came at the perfect time.

Here is a recap of our week with a ton of pictures: 

She brought PRESENTS!!  I'm serious .. SO many gifts for the kids .. including a BASEBALL BAT (a big plastic blue one) and SWORDS (the nerf kind) for Max .. she has 3 boys, so she's WAY more "fluent" in "Toys that Boys Like" than I am!  The girls were thrilled to have coloring books, fun crayons, coin purses, etc. etc.  GOOD OL' "AUNT KELLY"!!  

Look what she brought ME???  She brought like 10 of them .. ESSENTIAL CROCK POT COOKING INGREDIENT!  So grateful.  

After we unloaded her suitcase, it was bedtime for everyone .. Kelly amazed us all with her lack of jet-lag .. seriously .. it was impressive!  

Day 1: 

The next morning, we took Brooke to a playdate at a friend's house on the Palm Jumeriah.  Kelly got to see what homes look like on the Palm.  Brooke's friend's house shares a pool with about 4 other homes, and has a beach just beyond the pool.  They live on "Frong F" of the Palm.

After Brooke's playdate, we drove to the end of the Palm and had lunch on the beach-side of The Atlantis at a fun place called Nasimi. <--you can click that for more info if ya want. 

For the rest of the day, we picked up kids from school, headed to swimming lessons, then went to our Country Club-like place to swim and have dinner.  Every Thursday at the country club in our neighborhood, there is an outdoor movie on the lawn near the playground, pool and restaurant.  As soon as the sun goes down, parents are able to sit at a table and have "adult conversation" (and drinks!) while the kids play on the playground and/or watch the outdoor movie on the lawn.  It's truly like being on a resort!  Mark was on his way home from Norway on this night, so Kelly and I had some girl time!  Kelly loved people-watching.  Expecially seeing maids/nannies with the kids while the parents are hanging out at the tables.  It was fun to hear Kelly's take on what she was observing. 

The next day was Friday, which is church day here.  Mark got home at around midnight on Thursday night, so we all got up and went to church on Friday morning.  It was fun to show Kelly what church is like for us out here. 

After church, Mark dropped us off a The Dubai Mall to have lunch and SHOP!!  For lunch, Kelly suggested that we be adventurous and head to an Arabic restaurant, but when we surveyed the menu and saw "brain" and "tongue" on the menu .. we did a u-turn and headed for a sandwich shop.  There's just a few things in this life that we are pretty sure we don't need to try .. :) 

We hung at the mall allllllll afternoon and then Mark and the kids joined us for dinner out by the fountains <--click here for a you tube video  ... they are SOO cool in person.  They are one of my favorite things about Dubai. 

Day 3: 

On Day 3, Saturday, we took it easy in the morning and then headed out to the Madinat Jumeriah <-click if ya want.  We took an Abra (little boat thing) tour, where you could see the Burj Al Arab (Kelly's pointing it out) and just get a cute little tour of the property.  It was fine .. We had the most fun inside at the souk and restaurants .. We bought some really cool decorative bowls, Kelly got some great souvenirs for her family, we bargained a bit with the souk shop owners .. got yelled at by one and had to walk away fast .. and of course, people-watched!!  There's so much to take in just walking around .. the people in coverings, all of the different languages, etc. 

Saturday was a hard day for me, and I was grateful that Kelly was my first visitor.  I wanted to "wow" her with Dubai, but those "wow-factor" things were coming up in the next few days.  Since I am still such a Dubai "rookie,"  I was feeling like a bad hostess .. I had to take a deep breath and take the pressure off of myself.  I'm so glad that I was free to feel it out with my BFF .. if anyone gets me, she does. 

Day 4 was "A Day in The Life" .. Mark had to go to Abu Dhabi for the day, so we spent the day doing what I'd normally do on a Sunday.  Drop kids at school, head to grocery store, workout, back to school to pick up kids again, back for naps, gymnastics, dinner, bath-time, bedtime.  Again, so grateful for the grace-filled BFF doing the mundane with me even on the other side of the world.  She rules.

Day 5: 

On Day 5, we got MOVIN'!  Mark was able to help me juggle kids so Kelly and I headed down to the Dubai Creek (<-click) to become Culturally aware!  

First stop, The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (<-click).  This is an official "must do" on our "What To Do When We Have Visitors" list.  It was OUTSTANDING. 

You sit down with a big group and have a traditional Arabic breakfast while having a conversation with an Emirati man about his culture.  His motto was "Open Doors, Open Minds" and he was open to any and every question you brought with you.  It was an experience I can't wait to do again and again.  

That is KELLY dressed in a burqa to teach the group about why they dress the way they do.  The answer begins in the form of a question, "Why did you get dressed the way you did this morning?" Have you ever even really thought about it?

After our breakfast at the SMCCU, we walked down the creek a bit and boarded one of these .. a "water taxi" to visit the textile souk, spice souk and gold souk.  OUT.STAND.ING!!!  

SOUK:  |so͞ok|(also suk, sukh, or suq )
an Arab market or marketplace; a bazaar.
ORIGIN from Arabic sūḳ .

Kelly and I on the water taxi .. it was not glamorous, like the yacht in the background (and the super hot women pictured) suggests. 

Kelly checking out a table runner inside one of the textile shops. 

Textile Souk

Spice Souk.
We stopped and talked with a salesman about the different spices.  The first question he asked us was:  "Where are you from?" When the answer is "USA" the price in his head probably quadruples.  I REALLY need to gain some bartering skills! 

raw culture (to me) .. We saw this man on the street as we were walking from the spice souk to the gold souk

That is all of the pictures I have of our adventures to that part of town.  It was my first time down there, so I was so thrilled to experience it! From there, we had to rush home to pick Paige up from school.  Then we got home, had about an hour to regroup, and then get ready for our DESERT SAFARI!!! 

 Still Day 5, we headed out for the night with Arabian Adventures for a Desert Safari.  Max stayed home with Vilma (aka "Angel" our maid) for this adventure.  He'll for sure go next time, but we weren't sure he'd enjoy it (or .. ahem .. if we'd get to enjoy it as much) if he came.  We were picked up by our driver in a pretty nice SUV.  When I got in, looked up and saw roll bars, my eyes widened .. my mind definitely started churning .. "what will this adventure entail" .. and quickly handed Paige some barf bags.  :)  

We headed out to the dessert ..

First stop:  a Falconing (<-click) demo

If you look closely at the bush on the left, you can see the Falcon zooming in toward the lure her trainer is swinging around

The falcon is right above whoever's head that is. The trainer is still swinging the bait.  

He did this for a while to get her warmed up .. she would come in and try to get it over and over again .. he would manipulate it so she couldn't get it, and then finally when he allowed her to get the bait, she brought it to him, and then he fed her something else.  That is what Falconing is .. hunting .. the birds hunt small game, bring it to their trainers, and are rewarded with their meal.  I'm baffled by the whole thing.

Good bird .. here's your food. 


We were all a little afraid that Paige would make good use of her barf bags, but she didn't .. the girls SCREAMED with LAUGHTER as we slid and zoomed and flew and crashed and up and down and sideways-ed ourselves all over those dunes.  It was a BLAST. 

Our driver got a kick out of Kelly and I being in the backseat screaming like we swore we never would when we laughed at our moms screaming like we did .. hysterical. 

We took breaks here and there to play on the dunes .. big hit for all. 

The girls zoomed down the hills on the bellies like penguins! 

family (minus Max) photo op

BFFs on the other side of the world .. :) 

our group


As we were jumping off the top of dunes, I heard my phone ring .. it was Kelly's husband, John, trying to call us via Skype!!  I didn't work for long, but Kelly tried to show him where we were via my iPhone.   HYSTERICAL that my phone had 3G out in the middle of the desert!


The "dining room" at the camp

The girls (and Kelly) got to hold the falcon

we all rode camels .. 

got "inked" with henna tattoos

the belly dancer closed out the night. 

Obviously,  day 5 was PACKED with cultural craziness .. what a fun day!  

Day 6: 

Day 6 was Kelly's last day here .. as I type it, I can't believe it was only 6 days .. 

We headed to the BEACH on Day 6 .. 

This is what was behind us as we laid on the beach at the Dubai Marina

This was what was in front of us.  We were right at the base of the Palm Jumeriah. 

We spent the morning soaking in the sun, then went home, showered,  grabbed the girls and headed to Ski Dubai to play in the snow and have a very rare PENGUIN encounter .. (Max couldn't go, once again, because Ski Dubai is for ages 3 and up only).

All decked out in our suits ready for the snow!  
First stop, PENGUINS!
This is the only penguin encounter-type of exhibit of its kind in the world .. it was so cool!
The girls got to hold toys for them to play with .. similar to how you'd play with a kitten!  They'd bite at the little Angry Birds .. yes, Angry Birds.  Ha!

So cute!!!  

I have about 30 more pictures I could add, but we all pet them, hugged them and just hung around them while they did their thing.  It was such a cool experience! 

After the penguin encounter, Brooke was done being cold, so Mark came and got her and took her and Max out for dinner and ice cream.  Kelly, Paige and I decided to play at the snow park:

Paige at the top of the bobsled run

Kelly getting ready to race Paige down the bobsled run

After the bobsleds, we ran over to the big bubble .. 

Kelly inside the bubble getting ready to tumble down the slope

Here is a YouTube video of:  Paige Going Down the Slope in the Big Bubble

(Yes, I'm "THAT MOM" with my commentary skills!  I wanted the watchers to know that I didn't just send my 6 year old tumbling down the slope with no one to catch her!)  Kelly got her out of the bubble and then I headed down.  Getting out of that thing is a lot harder than getting in!  Good times!  

 Next we went up the ski lift:

 And since we weren't skiing that day, we rode the lift back down .. here is a view from about 1/2 way back down.  The lower left is the "bunny hill" where people were learning to ski.  It's a decent ski hill .. for being indoors .. in the desert.  :)

After our 2 hours or so playing in the snow, we finished off our snowy evening with some YUMMY Hot Chocolate: 

Hot Chocolate from the restaurant at the base of Ski Dubai.  It has whipped cream, M&Ms and marshmallows on top .. mmmmmm. 

After that, we headed home to get Kelly packed and to the airport for her midnight departure and trip back home to Houston.  It was so good to have her here.  It really was.  I feel like it really boosted me over a hump in this wild ride of homesickness.  At the end of the trip, I really felt like Dubai was a bit more "my own" .. a place that I can now say is a part of me and I'm excited to share it with others.  Before she came, I didn't really own it, or let it become a part of me .. I was just riding the ups and downs that came with each new day's experience. 

I gained confidence .. was reassured .. felt empathy in the hard things .. and got some OOMPH back to get through this initial stage.  I know that more ups and downs are to be expected, but truly, it was a GOOD visit.  Thank you, Kelly, for making your way to the other side of the world to see us .. I'M SO GRATEFUL!! 

Our next adventure starts tomorrow .. we are spending the weekend at:  ATLANTIS THE PALM!  We have booked our DOPHIN ENCOUNTER for Saturday morning and OH-MY-GOODNESS can't wait to go! 

Have a good weekend!! 

..till next time!